Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ralph and the race for president

Sunny flagged an e-mail from someone I've never heard from before. He wrote that I supported Mike Gravel in the Democratic primaries (that's true) and I should be outraged by what C.I. wrote.

"Matthis Chiroux" is what the man was referring to. I'm not outraged, I agree with C.I. Mike Gravel came off like a crazy man on Democracy Now! saying that Ralph Nader would be a wasted vote.

Maybe the man's not aware that after Gravel dropped out of the Democratic race, he then attempted to become the Libertarian Party (that may be mispelled) candidate for president. Bob Barr got the nomination. But what if Gravel had received the nomination?

Would he show up on Democracy Now! telling people that you had to vote for McCain or Obama (he's clearly going to vote for Obama) and that to do otherwise would be to waste your vote?

If Mike Gravel had just dropped out of the Democratic race, it would be one thing. But he dropped out and actively sought the nomination of that third party.

So are we supposed to believe that he has any respect for third parties? In his interview, he praised the Green Party and that's a bit much. They're falling apart before your eyes but no one's supposed to notice. They're having huge problems raising money and there are rumors (unfounded I'm sure) that if something doesn't change quickly, Cynthia McKinney (the presumed nominee) will be dropping out of the race.

Sorry, I agree with C.I. I voted for John Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000. Like C.I., I did not believe Ralph cost Al the election. We did have friends who supported Ralph in 2000 and, the big shock there, some are not supporting him this year. They're buying into the crap that Mike Gravel was tossing out this week: Voting for Ralph is waisting your vote and McCain could become president!

John McCain may very well become president. That could happen if Ralph wasn't in the race. When you choose the weaker of two candidates from a primary and install them as the nominee, you've created your own problems.

When do people think Barack's going to become a strong candidate? He can't debate. He's got nothing to offer thus far but catty put-downs. He's a joke.

I have seen enough elections to know that the summer month is the Democrats strongest. The lead up to the convention and the convention is as high as they get. The takedown comes very quickly. Some are fighters . . . Well, Bill Clinton was a fighter, anyway. So set aside Clinton and you've seen Obama's campaign over and over.

One year his name was Walter Mondale. Four years later, he was Michael Dukakis. In 2000, he was Al Gore and, in 2004, he was John Kerry. As in 2004, all these 527s will work like crazy to pump him up and, just like John Kerry, he will then open his mouth and shoot himself in the foot. He ran through the primary as the right-wing candidate and he can't suddenly become a left-winger now. (Though it's a hard reality for his fan base in the press to grasp.)

His polling right now is awful. He is not an unknown. He has gotten more ink -- and more cushy, fan pieces -- than any Democratic candidate nominee I can remember. Yet despite that he is still polling in the low numbers.

The reality is people do not like him.

They know him and they do not support him.

That's "dislike" and "distrust."

It's not going to change in the bat of an eye. It's unlikely to change anyway.

He did some really offensive things during the campaign for the nomination. He used homophobia, he used sexism and he screamed (he is his campaign) "racism" falsely and over and over. All of those create a backlash.

This is not, "Let's meet the Obamas and everything will be great!" This is, "We know them, we don't like them."

I'm not giving the DNC a cent. I'm not giving Obama a cent.

I've always been happy to max out each presidential year. John Kerry wasn't my choice in 2004, Howard Dean was. But I was happy to max out for Kerry then. I do not believe Al was my choice in the 2000 primary. But I was happy to max out for him (and to donate to the recounts as well). I was also very happy when Al Gore got the nomination.

Hillary won the nomination.

The reality is Barack and Hillary tied on pledged delegates and it should go to the convention floor -- which is the only time super delegates are allowed to vote.

But Hillary got more votes.

I don't want to hear the nonsense -- FAIRVOTE lies very well, don't they -- that it's not fair to Barack because he won caucuses and they don't release a real tally. They released the same tally they do every four years. Never whined about it before.

So those are the tallies you go by and Hillary won the popular vote.

Hillary won the big states.

Hillary polled better against McCain.

All that was ignored to install Barack as the nominee.

If the Democrats lose, they won't be able to blame Ralph Nader.

Even with Barack being crowned by the press, Hillary continued winning the primaries. West Virginia. No Democrat has lost that and won the election. Hillary won that in the double digits. She won Kentucky. She won South Dakota. She won Indiana. She won Puerto Rico. Over and over, Democratic voters were saying, "She's our nominee." The party chose not to listen.

If Barack loses, and I would guess he will, the issue is not Ralph, Bob Barr, Cynthia McKinney or even John McCain. It's that the Democratic Party did not go with their strongest nominee who connected with the base of the party. They are making a huge mistake strategically in the long range because Hillary was the choice of Latinos and they've just told Latinos: "We don't care!" Many of them will vote for McCain. Many will be voting for the first time and become lifelong Republicans as a result.

The Latino population is the largest growing segment of the population. When it becomes the determining factor in the near future and Democrats are stuck losing, people will look back to the 2008 and say, "We really erred strategically."

They have erred.

Unless they fix it, they don't get any money from me. I am far from alone on that. They allowed the radical fringe that cannot seek (let alone get) gainful employment in real media to be the segment that was represented. As far as I am concerned, they need to learn a lesson, the same one they had to learn with George McGovern. I'm not going to bail out their mistakes so Barack can come within 10% of winning instead of losing by 20%. I think they need to learn a lesson.

You don't go with someone with no experience. You do not pick the less popular candidate. You do not let deadbeats in 'public' radio and print magazines (that depend upon donations) dictate the world to you.

I believe Barack will lose. Donating money at this point would allow them to get closer to winning but it will not allow them to win. If that happens, the take-away will be, "If only we had more money!" It's not about finances, it's not about 527s, it's about a loser of a candidate who peaked in February and never had the nomination sewn up but was given it by the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Howard Dean.

Heads should roll over this.

Maybe if Barack would drop out of the race, he wouldn't 'spoil' the election for Ralph?

Ralph's a real candidate and he will get the votes he has earned.

Barack's going to be crying because what the DNC did was take the votes he earned and give him more. They counted Florida as if each voter was half a person (Dred Scott!) and they allowed Barack to get more delegates than Hillary from Michigan. Barack pulled his name off the Michigan ballot. He shouldn't get any delegates at all.

But it was time to baby Barack yet again. Guess what? The general electorate will not baby him. He has no experience (and still hasn't released his papers from his time in Illinois). He is a spoiled rotten baby who whined and stomped his feet and was handed the nomination because there are no grown ups in charge of the Democratic Party.

You have to be firm with children and I will be firm with my party now run by children. No money. No votes. Get used to it. He is Michael Dukakis about to step into the tank. He is a train wreck. The Dems cannot blame Nader for 2008.

But if you want a winner, vote for Ralph. He actually has plans. He's actually done community work (as opposed to signing up voters which is all Barack's 'community work' was -- Get out the vote). He's a distingushed individual with a long list of accomplishments and America would be very lucky to have him as president. When the next Barack scandal breaks, that's really going to be it. It probably won't break until after the convention -- to make sure he gets the nomination. When he's polling in the low thirties and high twenties then as a result of the die-hard Dems who will vote for anyone, voters should especially realize the sink is shipping and hop on board Ralph's campaign.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, June 18, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the refugee crisis continues, Nader confronts myths, and more.

Starting with war resistance.
Courage to Resist reports the latest on James Burmeister:

James Burmeister was serving in Baghdad, Iraq when his humvee was caught in an IED explosion and he was hit in the face with shrapnel. Suffering from the physical wounds, as well as emotional ones resulting from his injury and working with the military "bait and kill" teams, James went to Canada and was AWOL until earlier this year when he decided to turn himself in.
At this point, his fate is undecided. Because of his PTSD, James and his family are requesting that the Army gives him an "Other Than Honorable Discharge" in leiu of a special court martial which could send James to a military prison for up to a year. You can help!
1. Please contact the Post Commander General Campbell to request a speedy discharge for James. Contact the Fort Knox Public Affairs Office at 502-624-7451 or and demand better treatment for our soldiers. Ask that they discharge PFC James Burmeister now so that he can get the help that he needs.
2. Attend a Press Conference at Fort Knox, KY on Thursday, June 19, at 11am.At N Wilson Rd & Knox Blvd, Radcliff, KY 40160 (
map with directions)
3. Write James and give him words of support and encouragement. PFC James Burmeister; HHC - Building 298, Gold Vault Road; Fort Knox KY 40121

Meanwhile on Firday, war resisters in Canada will share their stories.
Stathroy Age Dispatch reports that war resisters Josh Randall, Tim Richard and Rich Droste will share their experiences and answer questions and Michele Mason's Breaking Ranks documentary will be shown. The event will take place at the Quaker Meeting House, 359 Quaker Lane Coldstream in Ontario. What time? No time's given in the report at the Quaker Meeting House. You can use both links to continue checking for when a time is posted.

What is known is that Canada's House of Commons passed a motion to grant war resisters safe harbor and you can keep pressure on the Harper government right now.
Gerry Condon, War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist all encourage contacting the Diane Finley (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration -- 613.996.4974, phone; 613.996.9749, fax; e-mail -- that's "finley.d" at "") and Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, 613.992.4211, phone; 613.941.6900, fax; e-mail -- that's "pm" at "").

Matthis Chiroux announced
May 15th that he would not deploy to Iraq. The day he was due to report was June 15th and he did not deploy and explained why in a public statement. Leo Shane III (Stars & Stripes) quotes him explaining, "I don't feel like I'm doing illegal at all. We basically have no cause for military presence in Iraq. I'm making this decision because I believe my first loyalty is to the higher ideals of this country, which are being blatantly violated by our leaders. . . . It's not about what job I'd do. Any order to deploy there is unlawful."

Courage to Resist interviewed Matthis ahead of June 15th and in one section he explains how he came to learn about his rights and how he enjoys getting that information out to others:

I went to a peace event in Brooklyn where I met up with a number of
Iraq Veterans Against the War and this is an organization that that I completely agree with all their basic points of unity. I basically felt like 'wow this is maybe the most intelligent and well spoken and in touch group of soldiers that I have ever seen in my life and they are all speaking out freedom and justice and peace in the wake of having their rights so violated and having violated the rights of others so badly." And one soldier in particular really, really did it for me. And her name is Selena Coppa and she's actually an active duty soldier who is stationed in Germany and she was on leave speaking out against the war in Iraq. And she started off with a disclaimer where she said you know 'the opinions expressed here are my own and not of the US military' and went on to talk about her feelings about the Iraq War and I looked at that and said, 'Oh my goodness. Here is an active duty soldier with the courage to speak up and speak out and, then you know return from leave to uniform and face her command afterwards.' And I looked at that and I said if she can do it then there's absolutely no reason I can't do it. And furthermore, I've been wasting my time with silence these last five years because somehow I've been convinced that I didn't have a right to participate in speaking for peace and justice at all because I had signed away those rights when I listed. And so many people believe this is true. And I have such a good time actually informing soldiers of what their actual rights are and then pointing them out in the regulations because a lot of it is jaw dropping when they realize 'Oh, you mean even as an active duty soldier you mean I can participate in peace protests as long as they're non-partisan and I'm not in uniform and I'm not speaking for the army? I had no idea that was possible.' And so I started there and I started going to IVAW meetings and I started planning an IVAW beneift at my college which finally came to fruition May 13th and I started speaking on the radio about my feelings concerning the Iraq occupation and why it broke my heart that I would have to deploy there June 13th.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Megan Bean, Chris Bean, Matthis Chiroux, Richard Droste, Michael Barnes, Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb,
Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Jose Vasquez, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Logan Laituri, Jason Marek, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

Yesterday's snapshot noted the Baghdad bombing.
NPR's Corey Flintoff (All Things Considered) reported, "Judging by the length of time it took for police and rescue teams to sort through the remains to arrive at a casualty count it was also extraordinarily destructive." Ned Parker and Usama Redha (Los Angeles Times) highlight "A 14-year-old girl, dressed in a black headdress and robe, towed a boy by hand and searched for her father. 'Where are they going to take the injured?' the weeping girl asked other distraught pedestrians." Hannah Allem (McClatchy Newspapers) quotess eye witness Muhannad Mahmoud: "People were screaming. A taxi driver pulled over and got out, with his face covered with black smoke. He asked me to check whether he was injured or not. One of the people told me he was hit by something really hard. He looked to see what had hit him and it was a man's arm." Richard A. Oppel Jr., Mudhafer al-Husainia and Ali Hameed (New York Times) quote survivor Ali Mustafa, "My shop collapsed on my head. There was a huge hole and a lake of blood [in the street] and burnt flesh of men and women and kids." Ali Mustafa also maintains the US military was present and caught off guard by the bombing: "They went crazy, but they tried to help people."

In some of today's reported violence . . .


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing left four people injured, a Mosul car bombing injured 14 people and a car bomb in a suburb of Mosul resulted in four people being wounded, a Kirkuk roadside bombing left three police officers wounded and another resulted in the death of 1 police officer and another being wounded.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad.

Monday Amnesy International issued
reports on the Iraqi refugee crisis (text, photos, videos) and noted: "Iraq remains one of the most dangerous places in the world. Its refugee crisis is worsening. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), since the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, an estimated 4.7 million have been displaced both within and outside Iraq and for many the situation is desperate."

The first report is entitled Iraq: Rhetoric and Reality: The Iraqi Refugee Crisis (
here for HTML and here for PDF). It notes how very "little or nothing" governments around the world have done to assist the refugee crisis (externally and internally displaced) that has reulted in at least 4.7 million people displaced. Those attempting to leave the country encounter numerous blockades and those who leave their homes and have not been able to leave the country are estimated to be 2.77 million. The blockades and obstacles in other countries mean many Iraqi refugees have to consider returning to Iraq which is still not a safe place but food and financial assistance is in short supply in the limited number of host countries an Iraqi refugee can enter. Amnesty observes:

Resettlement is a small but essential part of the response needed. Despite repeated calls for this option to be taken seriously, most states have ignored the calls and some of the most able to help have agreed only to minimal quotas. The UK, for example, a key player in the invasion that sparked the current refugee crisis, has an overall resettlement quota of 750, which includes places for Iraqis. The authorities in Chile and Brazil, however, have made positive moves in their approach to resettlement that deserve to be commended.

Iraqi widow Zahra and her family moved to Syria and she told Amnesty, "I will never return to Iraq where they killed my husband and took our house away." Amnesty notes that for all the talk of a decline in violence, the first portion of 2008 has already seen an increase from the Operation Happy Talk Wave of "violence is down!" only mere months ago. Along with violence, there is a lack of potable water in Iraq and there is lack of food (and remember that the rations program is being chipped away bit by bit by the puppet government to please the White House). Of countries taking in Iraqi refugees, Syria has "the largest Iraqi refugee population" with an estimated 1.5 million. Due to the large flow into Syria and due to al-Maliki insisting that Syria alter their visa program (remember
The Myth of the Great Return?), many who previously could have gained asylum and entry to Syria are now rejected.

Today, some categories of people can obtain a visa. These include academics and their immediate families; Iraqi students enrolled in Syrian universities and other higher education institutions; children attending schools; truck and passenger drivers operating on the Baghdad-Damascus route; Iraqis who need medical treatment in Syrian hospitals, provided they have relevant official documentation; members of cultural and sporting delegations visiting or passing through Syria; and traders and business people with commercial interests needing to travel to Syria.
Families with children attending schools in Syria or with family members in need of medical treatment can apply for temporary residence permits, which must be renewed monthly and only for up to a year. Such permits allow Iraqis to obtain permission from the Syrian authorities to travel to Iraq with an option of returning to Syria within three months. With the school year nearing an end, concern is growing in the refugee community about the future of visas obtained this way.

After Syria, Jordan hosts the largest number of Iraqi refugees (450,000 to 500,000). The report notes Jordan's new restrictions. (These are also restrictions imposed by al-Maliki at the White House's insistence. All parentheticals are me and not the report.) Now for an Iraqi to be allowed to enter Jordan, they need to apply for a vise before leaving Iraq. (That would be done at Jordan's embassy. And that's outside the Green Zone in a very violent section of Baghdad.) The report notes that one plus to life in Jordan is universal education for all children. However, Iraqis in Jordan are like other refugees in that the economic opportunties are highly limited and they must live off savings.

Lebanon has the third largest number of Iraqi refugees (50,000) where they "suffered from a lack of legal status, detention and deportation, particularly in 2007. Until February 2008, Iraqi refugees in Lebanon were not given a secure legal status nor recognized as refugees by the state." Egypt has 10,000 -150,000 Iraqi refugees. Those living there do so without employment because they are not able to legally be employed, their children are not allowed to attend schools, they have no "official status" and cannot receive any social services. From the report, debunking The Great Return, we'll note:

The international community has failed to respond adequately to the Iraqi refugee crisis. Rather, governments have tended to ignore the crisis or distort reality for political reasons – for example, to try and back up claims of military "successes" or to distance themselves from the issue.
In this respect, examples of Iraqi refugees returning home have received substantial media coverage, particularly since October 2007, while little attention has been given to the limited choices available to the refugees or the dangers they might face back in Iraq.
The Iraqi authorities too have an interest in promoting an overly positive and optimistic picture of Iraq's security situation and expectations. The Syrian government's introduction of strict visa regulations in October 2007 followed a visit to Damascus by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who requested closure of the border. The request appeared to be aimed at limiting the negative press coverage spurred by the continuing mass exodus from Iraq – the most visible indicator of the continuing high level of danger and insecurity in Iraq.
Following this, the focus shifted to highlighting what were portrayed as widespread "voluntary" returns of refugees to Iraq as a sign of improved security. Amnesty International was informed by the Iraqi Embassy in Damascus that three private coaches were being used to take hundreds of people back to Iraq. The Iraqi government has strongly encouraged "voluntary" returns, particularly since the end of 2007. Such encouragement has taken the form of advertisements on state-owned television channels, asking people to tell friends and relatives to return because of the perceived decrease in violence, and an organized return convoy. There have also been official statements at the highest level, including Prime Minister al-Maliki's April 2008 speech to the European Parliament in Brussels, which called for Iraqis to return home. Figures given by the Iraqi authorities of the numbers returning continue to be much higher than those provided by other sources, including UNHCR and the Iraqi Red Crescent.

We'll return to the reports throughout this week and next.

Turning to the US presidential race,
Ralph Nader notes:

Here is a counter-intuitive story for you. Why don't organized corporate interests challenge damage or risks to their clear economic interests?
Think about oil prices for big consumers, not just your pocketbook. Airlines are groaning, limiting flights, and laying off employees because of the skyrocketing price for aviation fuel. Executives in that industry say that fuel costs are close to 40 percent of the cost of flying you to your destination.
The powerful chemical industry is under pressure from the prices they're paying for petroleum-probably their main raw material.
The powerful trucking industry is beside itself with diesel fuel going to $5 per gallon.
You can add your own examples-cab companies, tourist industry, auto companies, etc.
Why aren't these very influential lobbies throwing their weight around Washington to get something done about the speculators on Wall Street determining what is paid for gasoline and related petroleum products? It is in their own economic interests.

Nader is running for president as an independent. Matt Gonzalez is his running mate. Today
Amy Goodman interviewed him for approximately a half-hour on Democracy Now!. Earlier this week she asked someone who had not served in Iraq to tell her about his service in Iraq. This morning Goody got off another groaner:

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, you said in 2000 it doesn't really matter whether Gore or Bush is president. Do you feel that way today?

RALPH NADER: I didn't say that. I said the similarities between Bush and Gore tower over the dwindling real differences that they're willing to argue over. And, of course, my focus is not on some of the single issues. Obviously, Gore is better on Social Security, better on Medicare, better on gay, lesbian rights. Obviously in those areas, the Democrats have a much clearer position, better position, than the corporate Republicans. But in the gross area of corporate power and domination of every agency and department in our government, from the Department of Defense and Department of Labor, the Democrats are moving in the direction of the Republicans. It's quite clear in terms of their voting record. There are exceptions, like Henry Waxman and Ted Kennedy, Ed Markey. But for the most part, these parties have moved very heavily into the grip, the iron grip of corporate power, corporate money, corporate ultimatums on globalization, for example, and above all, the distortion of the federal budget in the direction of corporate contracts, subsidies, handouts, giveaways, and the swelling of this enormous, corrupt, wasteful military budget that's draining money.

We're going to repeat this reality: Candidates get the votes they win. The ones they lose go to another candidate. Goodman repeatedly used the angle that Nader's taking votes from Barack Obama. Well, if Barack would drop out of the race right now, think of all the votes Ralph could get! It's nonsense. Candidates earn your vote or they don't. They are responsible (and the media). Ava and I will address the interview Sunday at Third. Here is Nader responding to the issue of Iraq:

Six-month corporate and military withdrawal from Iraq, during which we negotiate with the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis for modest autonomy, which they worked out in the 1950s before the dictators took over. Under a unified Iraq, continue humanitarian aid, some peacekeepers from nearby Islamic countries, and UN-sponsored elections. That's the way you knock the bottom out of the insurgency. That's the way you get the authority figures, the tribal leaders and the religious leaders and others, who still have authority over millions of Iraqis, to get together, because the alternative is constant bloodshed and civil strife. So you give them a stake by using the only chip we have, which is to give back Iraq to the Iraqis, including their oil. Now that--otherwise, it's constant, constant strife.
You saw that huge explosion in Iraq, in Baghdad, yesterday. The Pentagon doesn't count Iraqi civilian tolls. They don't even count officially US injuries unless they occur right in the middle of combat. So US injuries are triple what their official figure is. And all the press, including the liberal press and the indie press, still uses that figure of some 32,000 injured soldiers, when it's triple that. I don't understand why they follow that kind of Pentagon line. So that's the way to deal with it.

iraq veterans against the war
matthis chiroux
leo shane iii
hannah allemmcclatchy newspapersthe new york timesrichard a. oppel jr.usama redhaned parkerthe los angeles times