Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Susan Van Haitsma, BuzzFlash

"Ruth's Report" is something I had intended to discuss yesterday and completely forgot. It went up Saturday and it's Ruth's usual blend of humor, common sense, and keen eye. She's using an article by Steve Rendall in the latest issue of Extra! to address a number of topics including Air America Radio.

Sunny read it and pointed out that this community could write a book on AAR which I agreed with her on but the introduction would be "Ruth's Report." It really is that good.

I thought I'd share some basic thoughts about Air America -- nothing as in depth as what Ruth offers.

*Randi Rhodes knows how to do good radio. That was obvious from the start. I sometimes I agree with her and sometimes don't but I've never felt bored or put out when listening to her.

*Unfiltered worked best when Chuck D, Lizz Winstead and Rachel Maddow were all on. It worked worst when it was Rachel Maddow solo or Maddow with a guest host. (Such as Bill Press.) At it's worst, it was still miles ahead of The O'Franken Factor.

*The Majority Report started off a good show and got progressively worse as Sam Seder's ego outgrew his limited talents and required that he repeatedly attempt to steal the show from Janeane Garofalo who was the only reason to listen. If Steve Rendall was truly interested in addressing how The Majority Report used talking points, he should have checked out Seder's interview with Simon Rosenberg which was embarrassing when it aired and only more so as the years have passed. Ruth rightly notes that women weren't welcome when Seder soloed and that really is the way it was. It's sad because that was Tracey's favorite show (Ruth's granddaughter) and a favorite of mine as well until Janeane was shoved aside. It's a bit like loving The Dick Van Dyke Show and tuning in to find out that it's now The Mel Cooley Show.

*Mike Malloy was an asset to the network that was never appreciated. His ability to bring in an audience, his ability to engage one and the fact that he was a radio name amounted to nothing. Had Lizz Winstead not already been "disappeared" before Malloy, it would have been shocking to see how they treated him.

*Rachel Maddow gets to attempt one failed show after another because she proved herself a "company gal" by toeing the party line and avoiding the topic of Lizz Winstead. Since Winstead is the one who selected her to co-host Unfiltered, that's pretty crappy. That she felt the need to 'build' her own name by being a lapdog on the Tucker Carlson show is shameful. That she spent month after month telling listeners that the US could not withdrawal from Iraq is embarrassing. That she couldn't take her nose out of the crotch of her "Ask a Vet"s was disgusting. She has no center to her, no base, she just goes with whatever the polling indicates is popular.

*The way Randi Rhodes, Laura Flanders and other women were shoved aside to push Baby Cries a Lot repeatedly was embarrassing. The fact that the network that didn't promote women once at least had them on air in nearly equal numbers is now so much macho demonstrates that the network isn't left. There are hosts who are left. But the network itself is useless.

*Marty Kaplin had a daily, Monday through Friday, one hour show that was a nice transition between Randi and Janeane. Then he was shoved off on the weekends. Then he vanished. Marty was actually funny and entertaining and it may have been the way they treated his show that demonstrated best that the network was more interested in talking points than quality. If you ever heard So What Else Is News?, you probably know just what I'm talking about.

*The supposed genius Maddow had a real problem with dates. Reading from a news story in front of her, she would regularly botch what newspaper it appeared in and what day it was published. She's an NPR host wasting everyone's time.

*Making Air America Place take down their archives was idiotic in terms of building an audience and in terms of understanding the new models for broadcast. It made the supposed "friend" Air America Radio look like just one more corporation.

*Too much time was spent by the left trying to prop up a really bad network that was rarely worth listening to as time went on.

*The network's early decision to push the talking point of "stay the course" and the false Pottery Barn analogy clamped down on the peace movement. Not all shows pushed that, but the majority (including Baby Cries a Lot) did. On other issues, the desire to please/appease the Democratic Party could be found as well. This was most noticeable, day by day, after the 2004 election when, from one day to the next, the same hosts would claim the election was fair, then that it was rigged and we needed to protest, then that it was fair. Baby Cries a Lot did that, Rachel Maddow did that (aided and abetted by the Pap Smear). There was no core to too many of the hosts, they went from one position to the next seemingly based upon what that day's talking point was.

*The failure to present activists or war resisters was an issue that the network was aware of long before Steve Rendall wrote his article. Speaking only of myself, I regularly raised that issue on the Unfiltered blog. The response, not reported by Rendall who appears unaware of it, was the on air meltdown of Lizz Winstead and Rachel Maddow when there was no defense for their weekly "Ask a Vet" segment that always featured pro-continue the illegal war veterans. They were bothered by the fact that others on the blog were supporting me on that point. Let's also note that they regularly stole talking points from The Common Ills without ever crediting the site -- a problem Sam Seder had as well. As the community's Rachel noted when Seder stole from her post and credited her, "But he didn't credit The Common Ills."

So those are just some of my thoughts. I would also add that near the end of Unfiltered, they had two "Ask a Vet" weekly segments -- the first being a pro-war veteran and the second being a pet doctor. Yes, they could offer up weekly visits with a pet doctor but no weekly voice calling for an end to the war.

Again, "Ruth's Report" is something you should read if you haven't already.

"Mark Wilkerson's Call to America" (Susan Van Haitsma, CounterPunch):
My favorite photograph of Mark Wilkerson shows him smiling, looking relaxed. He is standing in a grove of trees whose trunks radiate outward from his image as though they are drawing life from him. One side of his face glows with reflected sunshine. He wears a black "Iraq Veterans Against the War" T-shirt with a small star over his heart.
I first met Mark on the grounds of the Texas Capitol during a peace demonstration on Gandhi's birthday, October 2, 2004. Mark was stationed at Ft. Hood, and he and his wife had driven down to attend their first anti-war demonstration in Austin. I didn't know then the extent of Mark's experience in Iraq, but he looked stressed, his eyes circled with dark shadows. He exuded nervous energy. He looked at the materials on our Nonmilitary Options for Youth table and described how he had been recruited through the JROTC program in high school with assurances that he would receive training to become a peacekeeper. At the demonstration, Mark met local members of Veterans for Peace, who understood more profoundly than I the internal and external battles he was facing.
Mark had served one tour of duty in Iraq, during which he had begun to question both the morality and the practicality of the invasion and occupation. Assigned to the military police, he participated in house raids and arrests of Iraqi citizens. He witnessed the effects of the occupation on Iraqi civilians and the change in attitude toward US soldiers. He began suffering serious post-traumatic stress and underwent a crisis of conscience about his participation in the army. He filed for a discharge as a conscientious objector in March 2004. When his claim was denied 8 months later, he appealed the decision, but soon learned that his unit was about to be deployed to Iraq for a second tour. Stuck between honoring his conscience and obeying orders to deploy, he went AWOL in January 2005.
Mark was AWOL for about 18 months. During that time, he said the nightmares didn't stop. He also felt at sea, as though he could not move forward with his life. He worked long hours, trying to save for a future that might include prison. Just before he turned himself in at Ft. Hood in August 2006, he held a press conference at Camp Casey in Crawford, TX. Flanked by other GI resisters and supportive members of Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families for Peace, Mark confidently and eloquently expressed his reasons for having left the military and his reasons for returning to the base to accept the consequences.

C.I. notes the above in the snapshot and I want to be sure everyone gets a strong introduction to it. I also want to offer a suggestion to anyone thinking about become a war resister -- get your family or your friends to speak out. If they don't, you'll get very little attention. Ehren Watada has gotten attention but he has two parents and a step-mother speaking out. Darrell Anderson had his mother, Anita, and his wife. I've noted Monica Benderman before but she really does deserve credit. She kept Kevin Benderman a topic. It could have been, "Oh, he's in prison now, let's focus on something else." In fact, that's how the news treated it. But she regularly offered something that would keep him alive in the public eye. That's not easy to do because there had to be days where she was organizing or fighting and just thought, "I want to think about something else, anything else." But she kept fighting. One of the reasons we all came out strong on Kyle Snyder was because C.I. pointed that out. He was raised in a foster-family and the military was going to try to screw him over thinking he didn't have a support system. That turned out to be very true, of course, they went back on their agreement with him. But you need people who will speak out for you. What you really need is a fighter like Monica Benderman but even if you don't have someone willing to push themselves that hard (or able to), you do need a support system. Once you turn yourself in, especially, you're going to feel like you've dropped off the face of the earth as everyone rushes to the next story.

One positive development has been Iraq Veterans Against the War which is determined not to let anyone be forgotten. They do strong work and they make a strong show of support.

"Women and Older Troops Dying at Record Rates in Iraq; Twice as Many Children per Casualty Lose a Parent than in Vietnam" (BuzzFlash):
Last week, Marine Captain Jennifer Harris
was buried in her hometown of Swampscott, MA. She was killed when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq.
Though the loss of all human life throughout this war - American, Coalition, and Iraqi civilian - is equally tragic, Harris' death is a reminder that our losses have come from across the demographic spectrum.
Harris was the
75th female coalition servicemember to die in Iraq even though women are still technically barred from combat roles; incidentally, another woman died the same day from hostile fire in an unrelated battle. Of the 3419 total coalition casualties, women make up more than 2 percent. Only 8 of the 58,193 American fatalities in Vietnam were female.
While many tend to think of our soldiers as all male, we also often think they are mostly young. Indeed, 28 18-year-olds and 199 19-year-olds died during their deployments. But 23 men and one woman were
at least 50 when they were killed, a percentage of total casualties nearly four times higher than in Vietnam.
Another statistic that is often overlooked is the number of children whose lives are changed forever when their parents are killed in Iraq. These kids never volunteered mom or dad to fight; many were not even born when their parents enlisted and, in some cases, deployed.

This is a point we raised at The Third Estate Sunday Review a few weeks back and it's an important point. The service members are not all male nor, as BuzzFlash notes, are they all young. (We didn't cover that point and I congratulate them for making it.) C.I. passed this on and thought I'd be interested in it. I am. Another thing I'm interested in is how the left is playing out the Walter Reed story. Read the snapshot (below) and you'll note C.I.'s point is more than "THEY CAN'T TALK TO REPORTERS!" It's also that these wounded service members are being expected to submit to daily inspections and other tasks. That is retaliation.
One more thing on BuzzFlash and Air America Radio that I just remembered. BuzzFlash is the left's equivalent of The Drudge Report in terms of popularity. Mark (I don't know his last name, C.I. would but I don't want to be a bother and call) should have been a regular guest on AAR. I heard him twice, on two different shows, and that was it during AAR's first two years. That's one more example of how AAR refused to put voices that were needed upfront. (BuzzFlash has long called for withdrawal. They called out the war before it began and they were never afraid to call for the illegal war to come to an end.)

Last thing before the snapshot, Kat. Please read her review "Kat's Korner: Air kisses from Diana Ross" and she had recommended the Who's new CD to me and told me I would love "Man In A Purple Dress." She was right. The man is a judge and it's really one of the best songs the Who has done. It could easily make a best of and stand along side "Pinball Wizard," "I Can See For Miles," etc. I hope to write more about this Friday but, for now, thank you, Kat.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, February 28, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; wounded US service members get targeted by the US administartion; Dems in Congress play "hot potato" with the war (and don't seem to grasp that they'll end up holding it); and US war resister
Joshua Key declares, "Iraq is a country and it's going to have to make its own path in history and its own way in life. No other country can do that and you definitely can't do that by means of a gun or a tank. But they have to make their own course and do whatever's necessary for themselves. I think that no outsiders are going to help it or solve the problem."

Starting with news of petty retaliation which, after all, is the Bully Boy's M.O. as demonstrated for the last seven years (if not sooner.) As noted by Aaron Glants today on
KPFA's The Morning Show, Kelly Kennedy (Army Times) is reporting that Walter Reed Army Medical Center's Medical Hold Unit patients are being "told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media" in what is widely seen as a punishment for the recent Washington Post expose on the deplorable conditions at what is supposed to be the United States top facility for military medical care. In addition, Kennedy reports, the soldiers receiving medical care were informed that will move from Building 18 into Building 14 and, just happenstance -- surely, unlike Building 18, Building 14 requires that "reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel."

In a
series of articles that concluded last week, Dana Priest and Anne Hull (Washington Post) examined the realities behind the image of the 'premier medical center' -- focusing largely on Building 18, and revealed problems such as cockroach infestation, lack of heat, lack of water, mice and black mold, clerks that were overworked or didn't care. The answer for the US administration when confronted with reality is apparently the same answer they always reach for "DESTROY." Joe Wilson goes public about Niger, out Valerie Plame (his deep cover CIA wife). Soldiers talk to the press about the deplorable conditions that the administration is fine with them living in? Punish the soldiers.

The Bully Boy who loves strut around in uniforms (with or without codpieces) is far less willing to do anything to actually help the soldiers wounded in his illegal war and the administration's answer to the Walter Reed scandal is to punish the troops with daily inspections and other idiotic chores WHILE THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE RECEIVING MEDICAL CARE FOR THEIR WOUNDS.

Turning to news of war resisters,
Tina Chau (Hawaii's KMGB9) reports that Ehren Watada's court-martil has been set for July 16-20 and that the "pre-trial motions are to be heard on May 20 and 21." In June, Watada became the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. In August of last year, the military held an Article 32 hearing at Fort Lewis to determine whether or not to go forward with a court-martial. At the start of this month, the court-martial of Watada began and ran for three days -- on the third day, Judge Toilet (aka John Head) ruled a mistrial over the objections of the defense (and initially without even the prosecution in support of a mistrial). Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian attorney, has maintained that the double-jeopardy clause of the Constitution now applies and that he will appeal any attempts to court-martial on that basis.

Lehia Apana (The Maui News) reports that Ehren Watada's father Bob and his step-mother Rosa Sakanishi were at the Maui Community College Library on Monday where Bob spoke to "an energetic crowd" of at least 75 people about his son and how "he believes the judge realized his son had a chance of being acquitted of the charges and therefore forced the prosecution to request a mistrial."

Last Friday the military re-filed charges against Watada, the day prior, as
Conor Reed and Steve Leigh (Socialist Worker) observe was Mark Wilkerson's court-martial and that he issued a statement, "My Conscience is Clear," at his website:

I am now a twenty three year old man. When I made the decision to join the Army, I was a boy. When I made the decision to go AWOL I was still in many ways a boy.I realize in retrospect that going AWOL may not have been the right decision for me to make, but given the circumstances I found myself in at that time, I felt it was the only logical decision for me. I felt as though I wasn't being taken seriously by my chain-of-command. I was crushed when my conscientious objector application was denied. I had failed somehow in conveying in words just what I felt in my head and heart, and that was that I could not, in good conscience, serve as a soldier in the United States Army. I could not deploy to a foreign land with a weapon in my hand, representing my government. I am not willing to kill, or be killed for my government. When I enlisted in the Army, I thought I would be able to, but after Iraq, my beliefs became such that I could no longer participate.This was what I told my chain-of-command. I felt they didn't care what I said or believed. So I fled. I quit my job. No other occupation in the United States punishes you as badly as what the military does for quitting your job. But that's ok. I'm willing to face whatever punishment the government deems appropriate.In my Battalion's Retention Office, there is a quote by Retired Army General Bernard Rogers, and it states "This is a volunteer force. Soldiers volunteer to meet our standards. If they don't meet them, we should thank them for trying and send them home." Well, I enlisted into the Army with the best intentions. I had other options. But I wanted to serve my country. And when I felt my country was doing the very thing we pretend to condone, I took a stand. And to me that is the core of democracy. If the Army feels as though I didn't meet the standards, they should thank me for trying and send me home. There's no lesson prison can teach me. Prison is established for criminals who committed crimes that the majority of our society can say in morally wrong. And with this crime, I don't know if that can be said. Even though I committed a crime, I'm no criminal. And even if I do go to prison, I'm no longer a prisoner. My conscience is clear. I'm no menace to society. I have stayed true to myself and my moral code throughout my life, and that will never change. Just let me live my life, and I know I will live it well.

Susan Van Haitsma (CounterPunch) shares some of her encounters with Wilkerson and observations before concluding: "Mark wanted to help his country, but his country betrayed him. His country capitalized on his honorable intentions, gave him false promises, fed him misinformation, used him to carry out inhumane missions, caused him psychological injury and then punished him by making him an object lesson for his fellow GI's. In fact, Mark is an example of the best kind, for all of us. In the same courtroom where soldiers were sentenced for harming Abu Ghraib prisoners, Mark was sentenced for refusing to harm."

Wilkerson is scheduled to be released in September; however, the judge could release him earlier. Going before a judge Tuesday, March 6th in Germany is war resister
Agustin Aguayo. Workers World notes that he is "charged with desertion and missing movement because of his refusal to go to Iraq." Though not etched in stone, the military has generally attempted to use desertion charges for those who were absent without leave for a month or more. In Aguayo's case, they've elected to toss that (Aguayo was gone from September 2nd through September 26th). Gillian Russom (Socialist Worker) spoke with Helga Aguayo, Agustin's wife, about his case, his feelings about the war, her own and much more. Agustin was a medica and he joined the military to support his family and to help people (he and his wife have two young daughters). Helga explained to Russom that, for her, it was seeing the experiences of military families that made her start questioning the war -- the creation of "geographical single mothers" -- and that for her husband, a book on Iraq's history took him from conscientious objector to the belief "that the war in Iraq has essentially been created of the personal gain of a few people." Helga also notes that her husband saw Sir! No Sir! and "it just revved him up for what he knew he might have to face." He's facing? Agustin Aguayo could be sentenced to as many as seven years in prison if convicted during his court-martial because the military is going for desertion. Why go for desertion?

Aguayo and
Kyle Snyder both were screwed over by the military in different ways and they were among the last ones going public. (Snyder is back in Canada.) Tossing aside the rule of thumb re: desertion to charge Aguayo with that is considered as part of an effort by the military to clamp down on the growing movement.

Aguayo, Watada, Wilkerson and Snyder are part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Joshua Key, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Corey Glass, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

Joshua Key, war resister and author of the new book
The Deserter's Tale, speaks with Christina Leadlay (Canada's Embassy Book Review) and notes that the passport requirement for travel back and forth between the US and Canada "would deter a lot of people [who] don't have passports, and if you're on the run and a deserter from the military, you're not going to be able to gain that passport." Joshua, his wife Brandi and their children went to Canada after Key returned from Iraq. There, he has sought refugee status and is currently appealing the denial of asylum. Key describes his decision to join the military as part of "the military's poverty draft" telling Leadlay: "You're stuck. You have no money. There is no other choice. If you want health care, if you want steady pay, and if you're even considering going to college, the [military] billboards pretty well offer it to you. When I joined there was not a wealthy person in the entire operation. I'd never seen a rich person in the military. I'd never seen a politican's son; I'd never seen anybody with any stature. We were all the same . . . coming from places that most people wouldn't even hear of, small towns, farms boys, and you're just looking for a way out."

Key's statements jibe with the study
Kimberly Hefling (AP) reported on last week -- the communities in America that are most directly effected by the US military death toll in Iraq -- almost half of the dead are "from towns . . . where fewer than 25,000 people live" and that "nearly three quarters of those killed in Iraq came from towns where the per capita income was below the national average. More than half came from towns where the percentage of people living in poverty topped the national average."

Sir! No Sir!, noted above, is a study of resistance within the military during the Vietnam era. The amazing documentary, directed by David Zeiger, was recently re-released in a special director's cut version with additional bonus features. In addition, (audio link) DJ Dave Rabbitt interviews Jane Fonda here. DJ Dave Rabbitt, along with Pete Sadler and Nguyen, operated an underground radio station (Radio First Termer) while serving in Vietnam. (He also acts as the dee jay for the soundtrack to Sir! No Sir!)

Returning to Minority Rights Group International
(PDF format) report Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq's minority communities since 2003," we'll note that it examines the abuses minorities in Iraq are suffering. Yesterday, we focused on women. Today, we'll note that the religious and ethnic minoirites (who "make up about 10 percent of the Iraqi population") include Armenians, Baha'is, Chald-Assyrians, Fali Kurds, Jews, Mandaens, Palestinians, Shabaks, Turkomans and Yazidis.

A table on page 12 of the report charts the diminishing Mandaean population in Iraq by looking at the figures for April 2003 and the figures for April 2006. In 2003, 1600 families lived in Baghdad and three years later the figure had dropped to 150. Though that was the largest drop, the Mandaen population diminished in all areas -- Baquba (from 200 families to 40), Diwaniya (from 400 to 62), Kirkuk (from 250 to 75), Kut (from 400 to 65), Missan (from 900 to 300), Nasriya (from 950 to 320) and Ramadi (from 275 to 75). The report notes that "Mandaen or Sabian religion is one of the oldest surviving Gnostic religions in the world and dates back to the Mesopotamian civilisation. John the Baptist is its central prophet and water and access to naturally flowing water remain essential for the practice of the faith. Scholars believes the religion pre-dates the time of John the Baptist, however, and is has a similar creation myth to the Judeao-Christian Adam and Eve story." The report also notes that the Mandaen language has been "listed in the 2006 UNESCO Atlast of the World's Languages in Danger of Disappearing" and that their faith does not allow them to carry weapons and "forbids the use of violence". The report traces a similar disappearance of Jewish people noting that in 2003 there were "a few hundred" Jews in Baghdad, by 2005, the number had dropped to only 20 and that by 2006 there were only 15 Jews living in Baghdad (most assumed to be "older than 70" years-old).

And in Iraq today . . .


Reuters notes a mortar attack in southwestern Baghdad that left nine wounded, a car bobm in southern Baghdad ("near a vegetable market") that killed 10 people and left 21 wounded, a bomb attack on a Baghdad police station that killed 2 police officers and left two more wounded, a roadside bombing in Riyadh that wounded four Iraqi troops, a mortar attack in Iskandariya that killed a woman and a man, and a mortar attack in Mahmudiya that killed one person and left four members "from the same family" wounded.


CNN reports: "Two brothers of a prominent Sunni politician were shot and killed Wednesday, the Iraqi Islamic Party said in a statement. Salim al-Joubori's brothers were killed in Muqdadiya, north of Baghdad. Al-Joubori is a member of parliament and spokesman for the Iraqi Accord Front, Iraq's biggest Sunni Arab political bloc." Reuters notes a man shot dead ("inside his car") in Tikrit, and the shooting death of Abdul-Haid Mahmoud in Mosul. CBS and AP report that, in Taji, "Eight people died when American helicopters and fighter planes fired on a palm grove".


Reuters notes a corpse discovered in Himreen, and the corpse "of a police colonel who had been kidnapped two months ago" discovered in Baghdad.

Today, the
British Ministry of Defence announced "the death of a British soldiers in Iraq as a result of an incindent on the morning of 27 February 2007."

Dahr Jamail spoke with Nora Barrows-Friedman on KPFA's Flashpoints on a number of topics (click here for Rebecca's summary) and on the violence and the oil law, he stated, "I absolutely find no evidence on the ground to support that statement that this oil law is going to unite Iraq or anything like that. I think it's just blatant propaganda that would go along with the signing of this legislation that is really, the approval of the draff of the oil law essentially which has basically paved the way for western oil companies to finally get their hands on Iraq's oil which is what this has been about or one of the primary reasons the invasion was launched to begin with and so the corporate media, outlets like National Public Radio -- you know the joke on the ground with me and many of my colleagues from the United States who were operating in Baghdad was we would call it 'National Petroleum Radio' or 'National Pentagon Radio' because their reporters always love to embed I saw them ebedded in places like Falluja or in Baghdad, on more than one occassion -- and so that they're now issuing this propaganda that I'm sure would make the Pentagon very happy and of course the US State Department and the Bush administration and the corporations that support them saying that this is a very good thing, a positive thing. It's another way to put a spin on the occupation just like the transfer of soveriegnty on June 28, 2004 was a 'positive' thing, just like the Jan. 30, 2005 'elections' were a positive thing. And we all know, those of us with pulses, where those events have taken us today."

As all the above goes down,
Anne Flaherty (AP) reports that, in the US House of Representatives, "Democratic leaders are developing an anti-war proposal that wouldn't cut off money for U.S. troops in Iraq but would require President Bush to acknowledge problems with an overburdended military. The plan could draw bipartisan support but is expected to be a tough sell to members who say they don't think it goes far enough to assuage voters angered by the four-year conflict." Dana Bash (CNN) reports that efforts continue "to bridge differences within the [Democratic] party after backwing away from legislation that would set condictions on war funding." That would be US House Rep John Murtha's proposal. Bash quotes Yawn Emmanuel making his usual self-serving statements and notes that the Senate's 'bravely' (my mock, not Bash's) decided to postpone debating anything "for at least two weeks." (Insert joke about Bully Boy being "The Decider" here.) Yesterday, US Senator Russ Feingold issued the following statement:

I am working to fix the new proposal drafted by several Senate Democrats, which at this point basically reads like a new authorization. I will not vote for anything that the President could read as an authorization for continuing with a large military campaign in Iraq. Deauthorizing the President's failed Iraq policy may be an appropriate next step if done right, but the ultimate goal needs to be using our Constitutionally-granted power of the purse to bring this catastrophe to an end.

With few exceptions, including Feingold, the Democrats holding Congressional office appear more than willing to take Bully Boy's war and make it their own which is what they do as they rush to grab cover and refuse to call out an illegal war. Meanwhile,
Larry Kaplow (Cox News Service) reports that a "public affairs guidance" note was "sent to units in Iraq from the Baghdad command" which includes generic talking points created by the Pentagon which may also be controlling the Democratic Party judging by their own generic talking points. Meanwhile Edward Epstein (San Francisco Chronicle) reports that there is no backing away from the Murtha plan but don't pin your hopes on it, Yawn Emanuel shows up to offer more talking points. Jill Zuckman and Aamer Madhani (Chicago Tribune) may call it best: "Democrats in the House and Senate are struggling to find the best way to express congressional disapproval of the war and President Bush's troop buildup. They are wary both of going too far and not going far enough" -- "wary being the key word.

Finally, in policy news,
Jake Tapper (ABC News) reports that when US House Rep Marty Meehan "introduces legislation to overturn the ban on openly gay and lesbian troops serving in the military," he will be joined by Eric Alva (a Staff Sgt. "first U.S. Marine seriously wounded in Iraq" -- March 21, 2003) who is now openly gay.

Alva tells Jose Antonio Vargas (Washington Post): "The truth is, something's wrong with this ban. I have to say something. I mean you're asking men and women to lie about their orientation, to keep their personal lives private [. . .] That's one fact. The other factor is, we're losing probably thousands of men and women that are skilled at certain types of jobs, from air traffic controllers to linguists, because of this broken policy."

agustin aguayo