Friday, September 26, 2008

Kim, pack up your office

On music, please read Kat's "Cher and more" and "Ralph Nader and Cher" and Third's "Cock Rock Hall of Fame." We're going to be picking that topic up Sunday at Third.

In yesterday's snapshot, C.I. highlighted a column and I really enjoyed it.

"NOW-NYS Presidents Message Prickles Some" (Marcia Pappas, New York State's NOW):
My message was intended to urge women to look at the "candidate" and not the "political party." In 1966, Betty Friedan and several other women took great pains to write a document that was called "NOW's Statement of Purpose." In that document there is a paragraph towards the end. It says
"NOW WILL HOLD ITSELF INDEPENDENT OF ANY POLITICAL PARTY in order to mobilize the political power of all women and men intent on our goals. We will strive to ensure that no party, candidate, president, senator, governor, congressman, or any public official who betrays or ignores the principle of full equality between the sexes is elected or appointed to office. If it is necessary to mobilize the votes of men and women who believe in our cause, in order to win for women the final right to be fully free and equal human beings, we so commit ourselves."
I point to this paragraph because I believe in, and live by this document. I also believe, as a leader in NOW and in the women’s movement that we have lost power because we have ignored this principle. We have become too attached to a political party. Leaders in my movment have cozzied up to the party operatives in DC and we have lost what little power we had. This is the reason why we are having trouble gaining them back.
There is no time like the present to detach from an abuser. I believe that political parties that take constituents for granted eventually end up abusing them more and more. This is what has happened over time. It is high time that we pull ourselves away and hold every single politician's feet to the fire.
I love Hillary as much as you do but I have gone to Washington DC, and held her feet to the fire. I sat across the table from her and said you must do this for women and for New Yorkers. It was on the issue of Roberts and the Supreme Court. We asked her to vote NO, which she did. She listened and her words to me were "you are doing exactly what you should be doing." She respected my position and my efforts to tell her that women were counting on her. And I respect her for doing her job as well.
One big mistake that I believe we make is to intermingle who we are as feminists with the belief that any particular party will save us. In the women's movement we have an expression that I am sure you have heard time and time again. "We have no permanent friends, and no permanent enemies. We only have permanent issues." This is another creed that I live by. If we get too friendly with politicians it makes it difficult for us to criticize. We should never, never want to be in that place.

Imagine that, someone who writes as if women matter -- a rare event these days. Pappas has been a very strong voice and should leading be NOW. Excuse me, should be leading NOW nationally. Kim Gandy is doing an awful job and, if you're not a member of NOW, that may confuse you. If you are a member, you're probably thinking of the e-mail Gandy sent out today and realizing how her little stunt put NOW's tax status at risk. I have really had it with Kim Gandy. Someone needs to pull her aside and explain the basics to her, starting with tax law. Starting with how she is and is not allowed to use the NOW mailing list. Starting with the difference in what NOW PAC can do and with what NOW can do. She violated it completely.

I don't even open up Kim Gandy's e-mails these days. I heard about it from a friend who called during one of my sessions. I returned the call at lunch and she was enraged and wanted to know, "Is Gandy trying to destroy NOW?" The woman's an attorney and couldn't believe Gandy would send out that e-mail. All it will require is one person forwarding it to the FEC and NOW will be in trouble.

We could be wrong but neither of us believes NOW could survive without its tax status. Gandy did a very dangerous thing today. I am not supporting Barack Obama. That's not the issue. The issue is that NOW PAC could have sent out that e-mail but NOW could not.

Kim Gandy's a little too intent on becoming a Handmaiden to Barack, so intent that she's risking NOW. She really needs to step down after that e-mail. If she'd make that dangerous mistake once, who knows what she'll do next? The election is still weeks away and Gandy demonstrates no awareness of the strict guidelines required for the tax status, no awareness of why NOW and NOW PAC are two different entities.

I think NOW PAC should be disbanded. Not because of Gandy's mistake, but because NOW shouldn't be in the position of endorsing candidates.

Prior to this election, their endorsements have always been of women (at least one woman on the ticket). The fact that women on the ticket no longer matters to NOW PAC (they didn't just overlook Sarah Palin, they also overlooked the Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente ticket) is yet another reason but I really don't think NOW PAC should exist. The mistaken impression its endorsements send is that NOW has endorsed when NOW cannot endorse. It also sends the message that members of NOW take their marching orders from on high and that is not what NOW was supposed to be about.

Kim Gandy had a good start at the beginning of her term but she's now no longer capable of leading the national organization, in my opinion.

As a person, Kim Gandy is very dedicated and very nice. But she's lost it this election cycle and is damaging NOW.

If I was 'out to get Kim,' I'd post the e-mail here. Instead, I'm only noting it broke the FEC guidelines and, if you're a NOW member, you should know exactly what I mean. By the way, I haven't spoken to C.I. about this. If C.I. saw it, we may end up addressing it at Third. Which is fine. That won't be out of malice to Gandy. C.I. likes Gandy, much more than I do.

It was cute to watch the debate tonight and see the man NOW PAC endorsed never bring up women. But he did have time to give a shout out to his dead father -- the one who abandoned him. Does anyone else marvel over Barack's lack of appreciation for what his mother did as he scrapes and bows to worship a dead man who beat women and took multiple wives?

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, September 26, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announced another death, did the Obama-Biden plan for Iraq slip out accidentally, and more.

Starting in Iraq. The Parliament passed a bill for provincial elections that now awaits approval (or rejection) by the presidency council. This afternoon, the New York Times'
Eric Owles posted at Baghdad Bureau an audio conversation between the paper's Iraq-based correspondents Alissa J. Rubin and Stephen Farrell discussing the bill. Excerpt:

Alissa J. Rubin: Well they were under pressure to pass a law actually three or four months ago. The idea had originally been -- and the requirement was that they would hold provincial elections by Oct. 1st. That was in one of the previous laws they passed and I'm not, I cannot remember in which one. And that, obviously, that deadline was missed when they were unable to agree pretty much in May to an election law. And then as the summer wore on it became clear that they may not even be able to have them this year. But there was a gathering upset, some anger, frustration from political groups that were not represented or are not represented now in the provincial councils and there was a strong feeling that if they wanted to maintain stability they needed to give those people a place at the table -- at least, although perhaps not the size place that they wanted but at least they have to include them in some way.

Stephen Farrell: So it's not just a technical question, it actually matters for the future stability of the country is that what you're --

Alissa J. Rubin: Yes, it matters a great deal. And there are two levels on which it matters. First, it matters because in some areas, notably Anbar Province to some extent and in Salahuddin and in several of the other northen provinces where there are large numbers of Sunnis there is this new movement, the "Awakening" Councils which are more tribal, local people, which are beginning to really represent a lot of the interests of the people living in those areas but the provincial councils which are the centers of power in these largely Sunni provinces are dominated by one political party -- the Iraqi Islamic Party -- and a few other smaller parties but that is the dominant one and those people don't necessarily represent or don't, in some cases, don't at all represent the people in the region. And so the "Awakeing" Councils and the "Awakening" leaders would like to have a chance to be elected and to weild power there. So that's very important and if they don't weild power they will -- or if they aren't allowed to weild power, there's a real risk that they will return to violence. Many of them were insurgents, not all, but certainly some of them. And it would not be a very representative situation. The same to some extent is true in the south as well which is predominately Shia. You have a large numbers of people loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shi'ite cleric, and they're very much -- in some provinces they are absolutely the majority and they don't have any place on the provincial councils or they have just one or two seats and the council? Say thirty, thirty-five members . So they are not able to influence how the council is governed. So it's important for stability to have those people also have their voices heard and be able to sort of plot the course of events.

Stephen Farrell: The provincial election laws sounds incredibly technical but what it seemed to me when I was thinking about it is that we hear all the time out on the street out in the provinces that it's a bit like a game of musical chairs. That the last time the music stopped four years ago some people weren't sitting on a chair, some people weren't in the room, some people weren't even in the country -- in those blunt terms. Broadly speaking, is that roughly what we're talking about? People demanding that the new reality on the ground be recognized.

Alissa J. Rubin: Absolutely that's what's happening and it's very important not just for the provincial elections. But these provincial elections are going to be something of a dress rehearsal for the national elections -- the Parliamentary elections that will be held at the end of 2009. And so it's quite important that more people be included before those elections are held so that those elections also, or that body, Parliament, begins to represent a bit better the country as a whole. At the moment, there's still quite a few people left out. Many of them didn't vote in the last election because they didn't want to vote in the country that they viewed as an occupied nation -- occupied by the Americans. So they abstained but the result is that they didn't end up with any power and yet they are here and there more and more influential for a variety of reasons depending upon which part of the country you're in.

Stephen Farrell: So boiling it down, what we have is that the Sunnis would argue the Kurds are very over represented in areas such as Mosul where the Sunnis did not take part in the last round of elections and I think that certain Sunni parties in Anbar who didn't even exist four years ago would now be saying, "Well we are the Awakening. We are the ones who brought peace to Anbar. It's time for the old guard to move aside and for our contribution to the country to be recognized." I mean, in effect, people crying out for recognition of realities of achievements made over the last four years.

Before moving on further with the various factions in Iraq, last
Friday's snapshot mentioned an article by Leila Fadel. As noted Saturday, "U.S. strike kills civilians, Iraqis say" was written by Leila Fadel and Laith Hammoudi. That was my mistake. My apologies. This is in the Friday snapshot because Trina and Betty post that one and it saves them having to copy and paste from another snapshot during the week.

Back to factions. Kurdish friend Peter W. Galbraith makes a series of hypothesis in "
Is This a 'Victory'?" (New York Review of Books) but what should raise eye brows is a declaration he makes. (Someone get Tom Hayden a chair. He'll need to sit down. We'll get to it.) Galbraith sketches out a scenario where all the factions are in direct competition and opposition. That's in part to his own desire to represent the desires of the Kurdish region by advocating that Iraq not be a nation but a federation. Tom-Tom's long had a problem with Senator Joe Biden's support for a fedeartion. The popular term for that, which Biden rejects, is "partition." Galbraith has long favored a partition. This is not the Iraqis making that decision but it being imposed upon them. (The Kurds have long favored partition.) Near the end of the article, Galbraith -- an Obama inner-circle accolade of many years -- makse some critiques of Sentator John McCain including: "He has denounced the Obama-Biden plan for a decentralized state but has said nothing about how he would protect Iraq's Kurds, the only committed American allies in the country."


The Obama-Biden plan? That was once Biden's proposal, long before he was on the Democratic Party's presidential ticket in the v.p. slot. But Obama supports partitioning Iraq? Again, Galbraith is part of Barack's inner circle. It's not fair to call him an "advisor" because he goes so very far back. (He is the one who, in fact, introduced Barack to Samantha Power in a kind of War Hawk mixer. Power, who, for the record, also supports partition.) What was once the Biden plan, Galbraith inadvertantly alerts, is now the Obama-Biden plan.

Tuesday's snapshot noted the Defense Dept press briefing by Lt Gen Lloyd Austin III where he attempted to sell the October 1st 'inclusion' of (some of) the "Awakening" Councils into the central government. NPR's JJ Sutherland attempted to figure out what the 54,000 members being moved over means and what their duties will be in Baghdad since, at present, they run checkpoints. Repeatedly, Austin demonstrated no awareness of what Sutherland was asking:

JJ Sutherland: Sir, I understand that but I'[m saying, "What happens in October? I understand eventually you want to have them be plumbers or electricians. But in October, there are a lot of checkpoints that have been manned by the Sons of Iraq. Are those checkpoints all going to go away? Are they only going to be staffed by Iraqi police now? That's my question. It's not eventually, it's next month.

Lt Gen Lloyd Austin: Yeah. Next month the Iraqi government will begin to work their way through this. And there's no question that some of them, some of the checkpoints, many of the checkpoints, will be -- will be manned by Iraqi security forces. In some cases, there may be Sons of Iraq that will be taksed to help with that work. But in most cases, I think the Iraqi government will be looking to transition people into different types of jobs.

Tim Cocks (Reuters) quotes Maj Gen Jeffrey Hammond declaring in Baghdad today, "This cannot be something that's allowed to fail. If the programme were to fail, obviously these guys would be back out on the street, angry, al Qaeda out recruiting them ... We don't need that." An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy raises the issue of the checkpoints noting, "The Iraqi people and especially Baghdad is fed up with promises by officials and security commanders of the improving of the security situation. Millions of students in schools and universities started their new studying year this week which will add more traffic in Baghdad and more targets for the car bombs. If the check points lessen the car bombs, we are happy with them. Instead, we have soldiers and policemen who wave for the cars to move like traffic policemen who are useless." Meanwhile Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) reports on a new questionnaire being distributed by Iraqi soldiers which asks a home's occupant for the a copy of their house deed, the names of their children and the name of the family's tribe "which identifies his religion and ethnicity. In Iraq, such a request has often been the first step toward death."

Back to the topic of elections, Iraqi elections, Alsumaria's "
What's after approving Iraq elections law?" offers an overview of the steps for approval as well as the basics on the legislation: "The law stipulates to use an open list electoral system where voters can choose specific candidates while the old law refers to a closed list system where they could only select political parties. The new law does not cover the three provinces of Kurdistand. Polls there will be conducted according to a separate law that the region's parliament needs to write and pass." Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor) observes that if the provisional elections are scheduled, they "will stir debate over the lack of central services, such as electricity and water. Many suspect that incumbents will have a hard time getting voter support because of an ongoing lack of basic utilities" and quotes Baghdad Univeristy poli sci professor Abdul Jabbar Ahmad stating, "Democracy does not only mean having an election or passing a law in the legislature. A real government provides services." And a government that doesn't puts the citizens in jeopardy. From yesterday's snapshot: "Meanwhile AP reports 327 case -- confirmed cases -- of cholera in Iraq." Leila Fadel (McClatchy's Baghdad Observer) notes the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction most recent report which found "only 20 percent of families outside of Baghdad province have access to sewage facitlities. Driving through Iraq's province is all the proof one needs. In many southern provinces the sewage runs like rivers through the towns while children play nearby and young kids swim through the dirty river water." Remember what professor Abdul Jabbar Ahmad stated? "A real government provides services"? Cholera's outbreak in Iraq is now an annual summer event. It is completely expected and little is done to prevent it. The UN's WHO pushes societal obligations off as individual ones as if individuals are the ones at fault for the lack of electricity nad the lack of potatable water? There has been no improvement in providing potable water, electricity continues to falter in Iraq and purchasing fuel to heat water (and make it safe) is problematic as fuel prices continue to rise. But the 'answer' is to repeat what they repeat every year and pretend that the central government in Iraq is not failing and that Nouri al-Maliki isn't sitting on billions that should have long ago been used for reconstruction. The UN is working on one water project in Iraq. Jiro Sakaki (The Daily Yomiuri) reports that the UN's Environment Program's International Enivornmental Technology Center is attempting to save the marshlands.

In diplomatic news,
Xinhua reports today a reception took place in China "to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of China-Iraq diplomatic relations." In other diplomatic news, at the end of this year, the UN mandate that the US has been operating under in Iraq (a mandate put in place after the start of the illegal war) expires December 31st. Puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki has twice extended it (circumventing Parliament). The White House is attempting to push through treaties (and, to circumvent the Senate, is calling them SOFAs). Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports that US Ambassador Ryan Crocker is stating Iran is attempting to prevent the puppet and the White House from reaching an agreement and that "Crocker also speculated that Iran may be tightening its ties to Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq and co-opting them from anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada Sadr, who for the last year has ordered his followers to largely refrain from violence. He said Iran has a history of using members of political or other opposition groups in other countries to its advantage." Damien McElroy (Telegraph of London) adds, "Iran has condemned leaked drafts of the bilateral agreement to replace the mandate. Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, replaced professional diplomats on the negotiating team with members of his private office in August, a development that has pro-Iranian politicians at the heart of the negotiations. Baghdad maintains that US efforts to secure immunity from prosecution in Iraq for troops and contractors is an unacceptible demand. David Satterfield, the top US negotiator, travelled to Baghdad with a counter proposal but Mr Crocker admitted Mr Maliki was unwilling to concede the principle when popular opinion in Iraq was overwhelmingly opposed." Yesterday Michel Ghandour (Al-Hurra) interviewed US Secretary of State Condi Rice at the Women Leaders Working Group in NYC:

Michel Ghandour: Madame Secretary, why do you think there's no agreement yet with the Iraqis regarding the American presence in Iraq, and what role do you think Iran is playing in this regard?

Condi Rice: Well, I don't know what role Iran is playing, but it's not for Iran to determine. It's for the Iraqi Government and the represenatives of the Iraqi people to determine. And it's a negotiation that's continuing that I think has actually got a good spirit of cooperation. People do understand that without an agreement -- American forces can only operate on a legal basis, and so we need a legal basis. But we're working very well with the Iraqis on this. They're not easy issues, and so it takes time. But we are working very well and we're working toward agreement.

The take-away is a question: If the US Ambassador to Iraq is telling the truth, why didn't Rice also grab the talking point yesterday? (The question offered it to her.)

In a readily established conflict between Iraq and another country,
Hurriyet reports that Turkish military planes bombed northern Iraq Thursday night "and hit 16 locations" thought to belong to the PKK. Al Jazeera states 10 military planes were used in the bombing. BBC quotes an unnamded PKK spokesperson saying three people were wounded in the bombings.
It's a Friday. Very little violence gets reported on Fridays.

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Anbar Province (four more wounded) and 1 police officer shot dead in Anbar province (one more wounded). Reuters notes 2 "Awakening" Council members shot dead outside Samarra and 1 person killed in Mosul.

Today the
US military announced: "A Multi-National Division - Center Soldier was killed Sep. 25 when a roadside bomb struck a vehicle that was part of a combat patrol near Iskandariyah. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and official release by the Department of Defense. The incident is under investigation." The announcement brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq to 4173 since the start of the illegal war with 22 for the month thus far.

Turning to TV, check your local listings.
NOW on PBS explores the bailout and attempts to answer for "Americans: How will this affect me? This week, NOW on PBS goes inside the round-the-clock efforts in Washington to craft a bailout plan of monumental proportions." Meanwhile, tonight's debate is on -- for both of the corporatist candidates at any rate. PBS' Washington Week is going to do two live broadcasts on Friday. One before the debate and one after. Gwen's guests will include Michele Norris (NPR), Michael Duffy (Time), David Wessel (Wall St. Journal) Dan Balz (Washington Post), and a scribe for the New York Times.

Four presidential candidates are shut out of tonight's debate. Two are Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin. The other two?
Cynthia McKinney is the Green presidential candidate and she notes on the economic meltdown:

Last week, I posted
ten points (that were by no means exhaustive) for Congressional action immediately in the wake of the financial crisis now gripping our country. At that time, the Democratic leadership of Congress was prepared to adjourn the current legislative Session to campaign, without taking any action at all to put policies in place that protect U.S. taxpayers and the global community that has accepted U.S. financial leadership. Those ten points, to be taken in conjunction with the Power to the People Committee's platform available on the campaign website at (, are as follows:1. Enactment of a foreclosure moratorium now before the next phase of ARM interest rate increases take effect;2. elimination of all ARM mortgages and their renegotiation into 30- or 40-year loans;3. establishment of new mortgage lending practices to end predatory and discriminatory practices;4. establishment of criteria and construction goals for affordable housing;5. redefinition of credit and regulation of the credit industry so that discriminatory practices are completely eliminated;6. full funding for initiatives that eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in home ownership;7. recognition of shelter as a right according to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights to which the U.S. is a signatory so that no one sleeps on U.S. streets;8. full funding of a fund designed to cushion the job loss and provide for retraining of those at the bottom of the income scale as the economy transitions;9. close all tax loopholes and repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the top 1% of income earners; and10. fairly tax corporations, denying federal subsidies to those who relocate jobs overseas repeal NAFTA.In addition to these ten points, I now add four more:11. Appointment of former Comptroller General David Walker to fully audit all recipients of taxpayer cash infusions, including JP Morgan, Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG, and to monitor their trading activities into the future;12. elimination of all derivatives trading;13. nationalization of the Federal Reserve and the establishment of a federally-owned, public banking system that makes credit available for small businesses, homeowners, manufacturing operations, renewable energy and infrastructure investments; and14. criminal prosecution of any activities that violated the law, including conflicts of interest that led to the current crisis.Ellen Brown, author of "The Web of Debt" writes at, "Such a public bank today could solve not only the housing crisis but a number of other pressing problems, including the infrastructure crisis and the energy crisis. Once bankrupt businesses have been restored to solvency, the usual practice is to return them to private hands; but a better plan for Fannie and Freddie might be to simply keep them as public institutions."Too many times politicians have told us to support the "free market." The unfolding news informs us in a most costly manner that free markets don't work. This is a financial system of their making. It's now past time for the people to have an economic system of their own. A reading of the full text on the Congressional "Agreement on Principles" for the proposed $700 billion bailout reveals the sham that this so-called agreement truly is. Today our country faces an economic 9/11. The problem that is unfolding is truly systemic and no stop-gap measures that maintain the current bankrupt structure will be sufficient to resolve this crisis of the U.S. economic engine.Today is my son's birthday. What a gift to the young people of this country if we were to present to them a clean break from the policies that produced this economic disaster, the "financial tsunami" that former Comptroller General David Walker warned us of so many months ago and instead offered them a U.S. economic superstructure that truly was their own. Power to the People!

McKinney's running mate
Rosa Clemente will be speaking at the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) Saturday, September 27th. Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate and he is also shut out of tonight's debate. Nader notes that, more than any cash infusion, the country needs leadership with spine:

Congress needs to show some backbone before the federal government pours more money on the financial bonfire started by the arsonists on Wall Street.
1.Congress should hold a series of hearings and invite broad public comment on any proposed bailout. Congress is supposed to be a co-equal branch of our federal government. It needs to stop the stampede to give Bush a
$700 billion check. Public hearings should be held to determine what alternatives might exist to the four-page proposal advanced by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson.
2.Whatever is ultimately done, the bailout plan should not be insulated from judicial review. Remember there is a third co-equal branch of government: the judiciary. The judiciary does not need to review each buy-and-sell decision by the Treasury Department, but there should be some boundaries established to the Treasury Department's discretion. Judicial review is needed to ensure that unbridled discretion is not abused.
3.Sunlight is a good disinfectant. The bailout that is ultimately approved must provide for full and timely disclosure of all bailout details. This will discourage conflicts of interest and limit the potential of sweetheart deals.
4.Firms that accept government bailout monies must agree to disclose their transactions and be more honest in their accounting. They should agree to end off-the-books accounting maneuvers, for example.
5.Taxpayers must be protected by having a stake in any recovery. The bailout plan should provide opportunities for taxpayers to recoup funds that are made available to problem financial institutions, or to benefit from the financial institutions' rising stock price and increased profitability after being bailed out.
6.The current so-called "regulators" cannot be trusted. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), "the investigative arm of Congress" and "the congressional watchdog," must regularly review the bailout. We cannot trust the financial "regulators," who allowed the slide into financial disaster, to manage the bailout without outside monitoring.
7.It is time to put the federal cop back on the financial services beat. Strong financial regulations and independent regulators are necessary to rebuild trust in our financial institutions and to prevent further squandering of our tax dollars. The Justice Department and the SEC also need to scrutinize the expanding mess with an eye to uncovering
corporate crime and misdeeds. Major news outlets are reporting that the FBI is investigating American International Group, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Lehman Brothers.
8.Cap executive compensation and stop giving the Wall Street gamblers golden parachutes. The CEOs who have created the financial disaster should not be allowed to leave with millions in hand when so many pensioners and small shareholders are seeing their investments evaporate. The taxpayers are bailing out Wall Street so that the financial system continues to function, not to further enrich the CEOs and executives who created this mess.
9.Congress should pass the Financial Consumers' Information and Representation Act, to permit citizens to form a federally-chartered nonprofit membership organization to strengthen consumer representation in government proceedings that concern the financial services industry. As the savings and loan disasters of the 1980s and the Wall Street debacles of the last few years have demonstrated, there is an overriding need for consumers and taxpayers to have the organized means to enhance their influence on financial issues.
10.The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, separating traditional banks from investment banks, helped pave the way for the current disaster. It is time to re-regulate the financial sector. The current crisis is also leading to even further conglomeration and concentration in the financial sector. We must revive and apply antitrust principles, so that banking consumers can benefit from competition and taxpayers are less vulnerable to too-big-to-fail institutions, which merge with each other to further concentration.
11.Congress should impose a securities and derivatives speculation tax. A tax on financial trading would slow down the churning of stocks and financial instruments, and could raise substantial monies to pay for the bailout.
12.Regulators should impose greater margin requirements, making speculators use more of their own money and diminishing reckless casino capitalism.
Ask your representative a few questions: "What should be done to limit banking institutions from investing in high-risk activities?" "What should be done to ensure banks are meeting proper capital standards given the financial quicksand that has spread as a result of the former
Senator Phil Gramm's deregulation efforts?" And, "What is being done to protect small investors?"
P.S. Shareholders also have some work to do. They should have listened when Warren Buffett called securities derivatives a "time bomb" and "financial weapons of mass destruction." The Wall Street crooks and unscrupulous speculators use and draining of "other people's money" out of pension funds and mutual funds should motivate painfully passive shareholders to organize to gain greater authority to control the companies they own. Where is the shareholder uprising?

We've highlighted some of
Jo Freeman's outstanding reporting on the 1976 political conventions recently. Freeman also covered this year's Democratic and Republican convention for Senior Women Web and you can find her articles here. We'll note this from her "Sarah Palin: A Risky Move and A Gift to the Women's Movement" (Senior Women Web):

Like Hillary's 2008 run for President, Ferraro's 1984 run for the second spot brought all sorts of sexism out of the closet. It was an eye-opener for everyone. In the end, this bold, risky choice didn't seem to affect the outcome. The exit polls showed that having a woman on the ticket was a prime concern for only a few. These voters about equally divided between those who told pollsters that they voted for a woman and those who said they voted against one. Ferraro's candidacy had a bigger effect on those who answered the annual polling question (in a different poll): Would you vote for "a well-qualified woman of your own party for President"? After Ferraro a party gap appeared. Republicans were 50 percent more likely than Democrats to answer "No." Republicans have continued to say they would not vote for a well-qualified (but unnamed) woman for President at a much higher rate than Democrats. Wonder what they will tell the pollsters this year?

Governor Sarah Palin is the v.p. nominee on the Republican ticket.
Yesterday The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric aired the second part of Couric's interview with Palin. Excerpt:

Katie Couric: As we stand before this august building and institution, what do you see as the role of the United States in the world?
Sarah Palin: I see the United States as being a force for good in the world. And as Ronald Reagan used to talk about, America being the beacon of light and hope for those who are seeking democratic values and tolerance and freedom. I see our country being able to represent those things that can be looked to … as that leadership, that light needed across the world.
Couric: In preparing for this conversation, a lot of our viewers … and Internet users wanted to know why you did not get a passport until last year. And they wondered if that indicated a lack of interest and curiosity in the world.
Palin: I'm not one of those who maybe came from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduate college and their parents give them a passport and give them a backpack and say go off and travel the world. No, I've worked all my life. In fact, I usually had two jobs all my life until I had kids. I was not a part of, I guess, that culture. The way that I have understood the world is through education, through books, through mediums that have provided me a lot of perspective on the world.

Part one aired Wednesday evening and both links have text and video. As Jo Freeman noted, Palin is following in Ferraro's footsteps (Palin has publicly acknowledged that and that she follows in Hillary Clinton's footsteps as well). Genevieve Roth (Glamour) spoke with Ferraro to get her tips for Palin and Ferraro offers many worthwhile reflections and suggestions but probably sums it up the best with this: "The bottom line is, Sarah Palin doesn't need advice from me or anyone. She wouldn't be in the position she's in if she wasn't able to deal with the campaign."

alissa j. rubin
the new york timesstephen farrell
mcclatchy newspapersleila fadellaith hammoudi
the los angeles timestina susmanthe washington postjoby warrick
derek kravitznow on pbspbswashington weekmichele norrisdan balzdavid wesseldamien mcelroy
katie couricthe cbs evening news
jo freeman
thomas friedman is a great mantrinas kitchen

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


On The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric this evening, she interviewed Governor Sarah Palin in the first of a two-part interview with the second part airing tomorrow evening. You've heard a great deal about Palin but this is her first interview with a professional journalist since being announced as the GOP's vice presidential nominee. (I don't consider either Sean Hannity or Charlie Gibson a professional journalist.)

"No bailout without conditions, Nader says" (Josh Richman, Oakland Tribune):
Now Nader, the 74-year-old consumer rights icon making his fifth White House bid, is pitching a package of conditions for the foundering financial markets' proposed government bailout. He wants reciprocity in the form of stock warrants so taxpayers can make some money back if these businesses flourish again; no lobbying rights for bailed-out companies; no golden parachutes or get-out-of-jail-free cards for guilty executives; public hearings on everything; letting below-median-value homeowners facing foreclosure rent-to-own their homes at fair market prices; and making the Federal Reserve into a Cabinet position accountable to Congress.
He also wants a securities speculation tax, which he likens to the sales tax paid on over-the-counter goods. With
$500 trillion in transactions this year, he said, a one-tenth of 1 percent tax would relieve tax pressure on the working middle class while discouraging excessive speculation.
"(House Financial Services Committee Chairman) Barney Frank and (Senate Banking Committee Chairman) Chris Dodd want reciprocity, I don't know if they're going to get it"... but none of them are talking about tougher criminal enforcement"... none of them are talking about prudent margin requirements," Nader said, scoffing at the Bush administration's "four-page bill for a $700 billion bailout" that seeks to exempt itself from any oversight or review.
"For heaven's sake, even the pope isn't final"... He's infallible, but he's not final. I know my Scripture at that level."
Congress is "being stampeded -- that's what they do, the corporate lobbyists and Bush and (Treasury Secretary Henry) Paulson's people are saying 'Hurry up, the markets are going to collapse, give us what we want.' But, you know, Congress has its own constitutional responsibilities"... and whenever there's a stampede, the people suffer."
Americans have to get angry and get active, he said.

Ralph is correct; however, after Bully Boy's speech/stunt tonight, I'm not sure how much time there is to pass something. His speech. I'm not even going there. It was a stupid, stupid thing to do. Apparently he wants to leave office as inept as he was when he came in and as he has been ever since.

"Nader and Gonzalez, the Ignored Presidential Ticket" (Garrett Godwin, News Blaze):
Starting September 27, press conferences and rallies are to be hosted by Presidental candidate Ralph Nader with his Vice President candidate Matt Gonzalez.
Nader, named by TIME Magazine as one of the "100 Most Influential Americans in the 20th Century", is campaigning with Gonzalez, managing partner of Gonzalez & Leigh, as they speak out against the unjust, restrictive, and undemocractic Commission on Presidental Debates.
The Nader/Gonzalez ticket says they are encouraged by AB 1945, which passed in both the Assembly and the Senate. If signed into law, the bill makes it illegal for insurance companies to cancel the medical coverage for accidental mistakes in medical history. Companies use this loophole to deny legitimate claims on the basis of medical history technicalities. The bill would require the insurance companies to prove that a client intentionally misrepresented their medical history.
Nader and Gonzalez are against Proposition 6, the so-called "Safe Neighborhoods Act," which would make prisoners out of children. They say that in the country with the highest per capita number of citizens in jail already, this would be an unacceptable further step in the wrong direction. They want to see investment in rehabilitation for criminals generally, and children specifically. Rather than locking California children in jail, Nader/Gonzalez believes the same funds should secure their future with single-payer healthcare and increases in public education.

I think a number of lessons have been imparted in 2008. We've certainly learned that sexism and homophobia are 'okay' when utilized by 'progressives.' We've also learned that we have no 'alternative' media because a real alternative media would cover all the candidates instead of trying to trick their audiences into supporting one candidate. But we've learned even more. We've learned that when a candidate can get on the D.C. ballot and forty-five state ballots and when he or she can also be a write-in candidate in four other states, it doesn't mean a thing because he or she will still be shut out. That person is Ralph Nader and there's now only one state where the residents can't vote for him. In other words, he's met the ballot requirements. He just didn't meet the corporation requirements which is why he's not invited to the debates.

It's time to set up a non-partisan commission for the debates. Not a 'bi-partisan' committee that will work together to shut out the other candidates.

We're learning not just how rigged the system is (bad enough) but how willing to go along with it or allegedly free press is. They won't raise a peep, they won't complain. They'll gladly go along.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, September 24, 2008. Chaos and violence continues including an ambush in Diyala Province, no provincial elections this year in Iraq, DoD announces the death M-NF forgot to, Friday's Democratic and Republican presidential nominee debate may be called off, and more.

Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reports on the Ministry of Trade in Iraq where "three high-ranking officials" and "[t]hree lower-ranking ministry officials" were fired. The firings did not sit well with some members of Parliament who had "collected the 107 signatures they said they needed to discuss a no-confidence motion against the trade minister" who instead remains in office. Why focus on the Ministry of Trade? Parliament's Integrity Committee chair Sabah al-Saadi explains, "The reason to concentrate on the Ministry of Trade is because it gives direct services to the citizens. People cannot live without food. It's not like electricity where they can buy power from private generators. Its' related to poverty and hunger." Rubin notes of the rations, began under Saddam Hussein, that the quality of them has seriously declined:The basket consisted of flour, rice, tea, sugar, salt, dried milk for adults and for children, cooking oils, lentils, chickpeas, soap for washing and laundry, and occasional extras, such as tomato paste or cake flour. During the past three years, both the selection of products and their quality have diminished, many Iraqis say. Milk has been missing for much of the past three years, although it recently made a reappearance, and there have been cases of rice with bugs in it and stale tea.

Left unnoted is that the White House has repeatedly attempted to stamp out the rations and that each year has seen a reduction in the amount of rations handed out by the puppet government as they attempt to end the program incrimentally since they can't do it out right. For example, from the
December 4th snapshot, "The United Nations' IRIN reports that Abid Falah al-Soodani (Trade Minister) announced yesterday that, starting next month, 'the quantity of national food rations delivered freely to all Iraqi families will be futher reduced -- from 10 to five items.' Now let's be clear, this isn't just halfing the food supplies. He told the Iraqi Parliament that the five items provided will be provided in lower numbers. Here's what's getting cut out: tea, beans, children's milk, soap detergent and tomato paste. Here's what's getting reduced: rice, sugar, cooking oil, flour and milk for adults."

Turning to US Congressional committees. First
yesterday's snapshot, noted the Senate Democratic Policy Committee's hearing on the corruption in Iraq. Dana Hedgpeth (Washington Post) reported Tuesday and noted, "In one scheme described by [Salam] Adhoob, Iraqi Defense Ministry officials helped set up two front companies that were to buy airplanes, armored vehicles, guns and other equipment with $1.7 billion in U.S. funds. The companies were paid, but in some cases they delivered only 'a small percentage' of the equipment that had been ordered and, in one case, delivered bulletproof vests that were defective and could not be used." Yesterday the House Committe on Veterans Affairs explored the outreach efforts and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Carolyn Schapper was among those testifying.

Carolyn Schapper: When I came home I dealt with a wide range of adjustment issues, PTSD symptoms, rage, anger, seeking revenge, increased alcohol use, withdrawal from friends and family, depression, high anxiety, agitation, nightmares and hyper-vigilance. My symptoms altered and grew over time. I was not the person I used to be and I knew it. I suspected I might have PTSD, but I could not figure out if I did, even though I searched endless websites. Nothing was comprehensive, nothing spoke to me as an Iraq vet. I even searched the VA website and it was no help to me. I could not put the pieces of the puzzle together on my own. The best way I can describe PTSD is feeling lost and disconnected, sitting in a dark hole. It is very hard to compose yourself to the point of working your way through the VA maze. Most people will not get help because it is so daunting. Personally, I would still be lost -- or possibly worse -- if I had not had the dumb luck of running into another veteran who already had gotten help, and who pointed out that a Vet Center could help me start the navigation of the VA system. Recently, when I first saw the VA's posters in the Metro, I thought it was fantastic that they were finally reaching out to veterans, instead of waiting for us to come to them. I have seen the posters several times. But I also had to ask: where was the VA two years ago? When I really could have used it? Because the VA is so late to the game there is a huge backlog of veterans who were not as lucky as I was and who have not yet found their way to the services they need. There is a huge amount of catching up to do. I also recently read a copy of the letter the VA is apparently sending out in conjunction with this campaign that oulines several of these symptoms I mentioned above in one place. The letter is good and comprehensive but I ask who is and is not receiving it? I had not received it. I also have some concerns about the way the ads are designed. For instance, the phone number is hard to read. A veteran in a crowded metro car is not going to want to draw attention to themselves by getting up and walking across to a poster. If they can sit far from the poster and still see the number, it would be much more effective. While these ads can and should definately be improved, I am certain that even this outreach will help a few lost souls.

Among the information that the VA needs to be getting to veterans is new changes.
Greg Zoroya (USA Today) reports, "The government plans to substantially increase disability benefits for veterans with mild traumatic brain injuries, acknowledging for the first time that veterans suffering from this less severe version of the Iraq war's signature wound will struggle to make a living." Yesterday the VA issued a press release on changes in disability rating schedule for TBI and burn scars:

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced changes in the way VA will evaluate traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and burn scars for purposes of determining the appropriate level of compensation veterans receive for these injuries.
[. . .]
Two groups of veterans may be affected by these changes. The first group includes veterans who will be awarded disability compensation for TBI and burn injuries in the future. The second group includes veterans already receiving compensation for these injuries whose disabilities are reevaluated under the new criteria.
The effects of blast injuries resulting from roadside explosions of improvised explosive devices have been common sources of injury in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and appear to be somewhat different from the effects of trauma seen from other sources of injury.

And the
VA also issued a press release regarding ALS:

Veterans with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) may receive badly-needed support for themselves and their families after the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today that ALS will become a presumptively compensable illness for all veterans with 90 days or more of continuously active service in the military.
"Veterans are developing ALS in rates higher than the general population, and it was appropriate to take action," Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake said.
Secretary Peake based his decision primarily on a November 2006 report by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM) on the association between active-duty service and ALS.

Today the Senate Veterans Affair's Committee held a hearing entitled "Cooperation and Collaboration by VA and DoD on Information Technology efforts." "This is historic," declared chair Daniel Akaka calling the meeting to order explaining, . Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense have been talking to each other, have been working together and here's another area that we're getting in where we're working together. This is why I said it's historic. Even in the waning days of this Congressional session we must continue to strive to improve care for service members and veterans. An essential ingredient to reaching that goals is a sharing of personal health care information between the two departments." Akaka said the goal was sharing medical information in real time.

The first panel was the Government Accountability Office's Valerie Melvin (Human Capital and Management Information Systems Director) who noted in her opening statements:

DoD and VA are sharing some, but not all, electronic health information at different levels of interoperability. Specifically, pharmacy and drug allergy data on almost 19,000 shared patients are exchanged at the highest level of interoperability -- that is, in computable form; at this level the data are in a standardized format that a computer application can act on. In other cases, data can be viewed only -- a lower level of interoperability that still provides clinicians with important information.

And she noted that a number of health care data is still stored only on paper. From her exchange with the chair.

Senator Daniel Akaka: Let me ask you, in your view and based upon the recent progress are VA and DoD on the right track for fully sharing electronic medical information by September 9th [2009]? The date set by Congress.

Valerie Melvin: They are on an important track and I would say it is a positive track and a track in the right direction. The concern that I have at this time is that the definition of full interoperability remains unclear. In my statement, I made the point that VA and DoD had not yet defined an interoperability goal for us at GAO that's a very important step that needs to be taken from a standpoint of really knowing what it is that the department intends to have in place by September 9. I think they've made critically important progress as far as moving in the direction of interoperable sharing. They are sharing at various levels of interoperability as I've stated; however, how much more they intend to share across what facilities and through across what percentage of their patients is still unclear. So that once that's defined, I believe there'll be a better case for stating whether or not they'll be able to reach the September 2009 date for full interoperability.

Senator Daniel Akaka: Well, you just mentioned interoperability as being unclear, Ms. Melvin. GAO identified that one of the major challenges for DoD and VA is the ability to develop common standards for shared data. Please explain for the committee why these common standards are so necessary.

Valerie Melvin: I might start by saying that in developing standards, that's a difficult task, not just for VA and DoD. Even at the national level at which the office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is involved and which DoD and VA are involved with, identifying standards and agreeing to standards across multiple entitites -- in this case, two very large federal agencies -- is a complex task that does involve understanding the data that each agency views or deems as most important to meet their needs in caring for veterans and in caring for active duty patients. But common standards are essential from the standpoint of allowing VA and DoD systems essentially to talk to each other. At the very basic these standards are needed so that if you are talking about a particular type of medication, for example let's say an aspirin, in terms of sharing data and being able to have computerized data for example where we talked about being able to provide alerts for allergies to certain medications it's important that VA system be able to read an aspirin as aspirin and see that data in DoD's system and know that that's the same aspirin or the same type of medication. At the same time, standards are important for establishing how data is communicated between those two computers. For example, from the standpoint that there are standards for messaging, there are standards for establishing specific data elements -- for how data transmits, in what order specific types of information comes over to another computer or is read by another computer. It's important for example that if VA's computer is looking at information for a patient and they are looking for a date of birth that they in fact -- that that sytems understands where to read that date of birth from DoD's information, that it reads it as a date of birth, not perhaps as a Social Security number. So having standards allows those systems to have a common way to talk to each other and to make sure that they understand -- those systems can read the data from each other and produce results that are informative in making decisions.

Senator Daniel Akaka: I know you've made some progress in reaching the common standards of ineteroperability. How far do the departments have to go in achieving these standards for shared electronic health information? Are we a year away? Or is it closer to five or ten years before complete standardization can be achieved?

Valerie Melvin: That's really a question that the agencies will have to answer. It really goes to the heart of the work that those agencies are undertaking and will have to continue to undertake to really establish what their needs are. It's rooted in their need to understand what the user requirements are, rooted in understanding how best to serve their patient population and so knowing what their needs are will have to drive what types of data they want, will have to drive the harmonization related to that data and ultimately what they decide will be the standards that establish the specific data and how it's communicated.

So what all the above gets to is that the GAO thinks it is very unlikely that the VA and DoD will meet the date Congress has given them to be compatible with one another. While that's in gridlock, Iraq's Parliament has news.
Corinne Reilly (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the Parliament has passed legislation for provincial elections. Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) explains, "The bill, approved unanimously by legislators, said elections should take place by Jan. 31, 2009. The date is later than U.S. officials had hoped. They have urged elections this year to more evenly spread power among Sunni Arabs, Shiite Muslims, and Kurds in areas where the division of power is lopsided." Both note that Kirkuk was set-aside. It will not hold provincial elections. The oil-rich city will, instead, continue to be the prize the central 'government' in Baghdad and the Kurdish region fight over. Reilly adds, "The committee is to make its recommendations by March 31, and the parliament will then decide how to deal with the city." Meanwhile Alaa Majeed (UPI) notes a Kurdish newspaper weighing in on the continued US presence in Iraq, "For the sake of the national interest and the independence of Iraq, the foreign military presence has to end as soon as possible, al-Ittihad newspaper of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan said Tuesday. In order for the withdrawal not to be disastrous The call for independence and full sovereignty is the least that people of any country demand to achieve in order to control their fate and their future. It is unsettling for the Iraqi people to see political and social powers deciding their will."


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that injured seven Iraqis, a Baghdad car bombing claimed 1 life and left five people injured, a Mosul roadside bombing wounded tow Iraqi soldiers and a Sadiyah roadside bombing wounded three police officers.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the Ministry of Interior's Abdul Karim Hussein and "his driver and another person" were wounded in a Baghdad gunfire attack, 1 Diyala Province kindergarten school guard was shot dead, 1 police officer shot dead in Diyala Province (one more injured) and an ambush "in Dulaimiyat village of Khan Bani Saad" [still Diyala Province] that claimed the lives of "12 national policemen and eight Sahwa members". On the ambus, BBC notes, "Gunmen first attacked a checkpoint in the village, killing a policeman, officials said. They then ambushed reinforcements, killing another 11 policemen and Sunni Arab fighters." Al Jazeera quotes Dr. Ahmed Faud stating, "The bodies are riddled with bullets." AFP notes, "The province has seen a spate of suicide bombings, several of them carried out by women, that commanders have blamed on the jihadists. On September 15, a woman suicide bomber blew herself up in a crowd of people during a feast in the town of Balad Druz in Diyala, killing 22 people and wounding dozens more."


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.

4171 is now the number of US service members killed since the start of the illegal war and 20 for the month thus far. That's one up from yesterday and, yet again, the count goes up via DoD and not M-NF. Repeating, M-NF is supposed to announce deaths, DoD is supposed to identify the fallen.

Turning to the US presidential race. Joshua Frank offers a must read "
Oppose Barack Obama? How Dare Thee!!" (Dissident Voice) about how "progressives" continue to express dismay with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama yet still continue to vote for him. Frank runs through Barack's record including "Obama who says he wants an end to the war but has voted for its continuation and will leave troops and private mercenaries in the country to deal with the so-called insurgents -- even threatening to shift US forces to Afghanistan and Iran, where he's promised to bully our enemies into submission." The cave on FISA, the support for the "Patriot" Act, the pro-nuclear, it's all there leading Frank to point out, "Obama has never been a true progressive. He's another centrist Democrat that has done his best to appease all sides of the political spectrum". Frank examines Norman Solomon "an Obama delegate at the convention in Denver and [who] sits on the board of Progressive Democrats of America, has an agenda: to usher Barack Obama into the White House because he sees John McCain as leading our country closer to the sacrificial ledge. 'Save the Country (read Empire) Vote Democrat' has become a common refrain among a certain segment of the left, one that echoes through progressive and even radical circles every four years like clockwork. Go ahead and acknowledge their faults, they sing from on high, just don't you dare ditch the Democrats come Election Day, for the rapture will ensue. Like others of his stature, Solomon has in the past dished out scare tactics in an attempt to threaten progressives into voting against their own interests, an approach not too unlike the Republican's who consistently undermine the concerns and needs of their base." Frank goes on to demolish the fear card attempted re: Supreme Court and ends with a historical reminder.

GOP presidential candidate John McCain is in the news for proposing Friday's debate be called off.
McCain explains (McCain-Palin 2008, link has text and video): "America this week faces an historic crisis in our financial system. We must pass legislation to address this crisis. If we do not, credit will dry up, with devastating consequences for our economy. People will no longer be able to buy homes and their life savings will be at stake. Businesses will not have enough money to pay their employees. If we do not act, every corner of our country will be impacted. We cannot allow this to happen. Last Friday, I laid out my proposal and I have since discussed my priorities and concerns with the bill the Administration has put forward. Senator Obama has expressed his priorities and concerns. This morning, I met with a group of economic advisers to talk about the proposal on the table and the steps that we should take going forward. I have also spoken with members of Congress to hear their perspective. It has become clear that no consensus has developed to support the Administration's proposal. I do not believe that the plan on the table will pass as it currently stands, and we are running out of time. Tomorrow morning, I will suspend my campaign and return to Washington after speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative. I have spoken to Senator Obama and informed him of my decision and have asked him to join me. I am calling on the President to convene a meeting with the leadership from both houses of Congress, including Senator Obama and myself. It is time for both parties to come together to solve this problem."

Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate and
he writes of the economic meltdown in the US today:

I was up on Capitol Hill yesterday among the swarm of big bank lobbyists.And the first thing I thought of was something my dad -- Nathra Nader -- used to say:"Capitalism will always survive in the United States as long as the government is willing to use socialism to bail it out."Dad was old school.
Dad emigrated to the U.S. in 1912 when he was nineteen.(Here is a picture of Dad in 1978, leading a demonstration in Winsted, Connecticut, my hometown, to protest a Congressional pay raise.)"When I sailed past the Statue of Liberty, I took it seriously," he would say.Dad ran a restaurant in downtown Winsted -- the Highland Arms.People used to say -- "At Nader's place, for a nickel you got a cup of coffee and ten minutes of conversation."Dad didn't hesitate to skewer the greed of big business.He especially opposed the drive by the chain stores to destroy family owned small businesses.Dad was a man of many sayings."Congress is the best big business investment in the country," he would say. "It's one big leveraged sell-out."When we were young, Dad would tell us:"Don't look down on anyone and don't be in awe of anyone."Or this one:"Almost everyone will claim they love their country. If that is true, why don't they spend more time improving it?"Dad knew early on that both political parties were under the thumb of big business. (Where did you think I got it from?)Anyway, being on Capitol Hill yesterday got me to thinking about an idea that would help us push our substantive agenda onto the front burner of American politics.A few years ago, I sat down at my manual typewriter and typed in 100 or so of my Dad's most memorable sayings and proverbs.I thought you would enjoy having a copy of them.
So, here's the deal.
Our goal during this current fundraising drive is to hit $150,000 by the end of the month. (Thanks to your generosity, we're already at $36,000.)
If you
donate any amount that has the number 3 in it -- as in -- we want a 3-way race -- by midnight tonight, we'll e-mail to you a collection of my Dad's sayings and proverbs.
That simple.
you can give $3.Or $13.Or $30.
Or $33.
Or $300.
Anything up the to the maximum of $2,300.
But it has to have at least one three in it.
If it has a three in it, we'll e-mail you the 20 pages of Dad's sayings tomorrow.
You can share it with your friends and family.
Thank you for your ongoing support.
Together, we are making a serious difference -- and keeping our sense of humor.
Onward to November.
Ralph Nader
PS: And remember, if you
donate $100 now, we'll ship to you a copy of The Ralph Nader Reader, a 441-page collection of my writings on Wall Street vs. Main Street, democracy, the corporate state, and our hyper-commercialized culture. If you donate $100 now, we will send you this diverse collection -- and I'll autograph it. (This book offer ends at 11:59 p.m. September 30, 2008.)

joshua frank
mcclatchy newspapersthe los angeles timestina susman
the new york timesalissa j. rubindana hedgpeththe washington post

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Talking post


"Coming Up" (The Third Estate Sunday Review):

This Wednesday, The New Adventures of Old Christine has its season debut during prime time's first half-hour. This is a popular show with many readers -- many of whom have written to note that Ava and C.I. have been documenting CBS' attempt to disown the program for some time. Ava and C.I. note that the Wednesday move is not unlike when CBS attempted to get rid of Murphy Brown and The Nanny. You can make it harder for CBS to get rid of the show you enjoy by watching it on its new day. (It transitioned over the summer -- airing on both Wednesdays and Mondays but with the fall season now underway, it will air on Wednesdays.) Ruth and Marcia both wrote about it last week and intend to do a heads up in their Tuesday night posts. Seeing those posts last week led many of you to ask that we somehow note the change so that everyone is aware. As Ruth and Marcia pointed out, sitcoms have seen the disappearance of the female lead. The New Adventures of Old Christine not only offers a female lead, it offers what may be the funniest network sitcom. We will note the new air date again next week in another format. [Click here for Ava and C.I.'s review of the show, and here, here, here and here for some more commentary by Ava and C.I. That's not all the commentary, just all we're linking to for this short feature.]

So that's tomorrow night.

"VA to increase benefits for mild brain trauma" (Greg Zoroya, USA Today):
The government plans to substantially increase disability benefits for veterans with mild traumatic brain injuries, acknowledging for the first time that veterans suffering from this less severe version of the Iraq war's signature wound will struggle to make a living.
"We're saying it's real," said Tom Pamperin, a deputy director for the Department of Veteran Affairs, about the significance of the change to benefits in the regulation the VA plans to publish today.

I read the above and hope it's true. A real increase I'll believe when it takes effect. But I also thought, "I hope that wasn't a hearing C.I. planned to cover." There was one that C.I. was going to put into the snapshot today but I called and asked that the section C.I. wrote earlier in the morning about CO Michael Barnes be included. I thought that was really strong when I saw it this morning and thought, as usual, C.I. did it better than anyone else could because C.I.'s got the memory to pull from the past and apply what happened then to today.

Barnes' story all by itself was worth telling but pairing it with Aguayo and addressing the roadblocks to CO status made it twice as important to me. Then to C.I. dig back into the CO process during Vietnam . . . I called while C.I. was dictating the snaphot and explained to Ava how badly I wanted that included in the snapshot today. She explained C.I. was doing several committees in the snapshot and there probably wasn't room so I explained why I thought it had to be included. Ava said, "Don't worry, I'll pass it on and you know it will go in." Which it did.

I think that's one of C.I.'s greatest strengths (and there are many), being able to explain where we are today, how we ended up there and what we need to do to make it easier for the ones who will come.

I read the snapshot and see that Gates' hearing got reduced to one quote but that's probably all it was worth.

I was also glad to see that the unidentified person at the other hearing wasn't quoted. If you testify in an open session, you better give your name. If you don't, no one needs to place faith in you. That line has to be drawn because if it's not, you end up with someone later on wanting to sell a war and hide. You open the door a crack and you never know what else is going to be pushed through. (The snapshot doesn't quote or note the testimony of a third man who testified via satellite and whose identity was not given.)

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, September 23, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, corporations make a killing in Iraq, the US military announces another death, and more.

"There is a popular saying now in Iraq. They say every one dollar spent in Iraq, fifty percent of it will go to corruption, forty percent will go to security and other issues. In the end, only five percent may go to Iraqi people." Abbas Mehdi shared that yesterday in the Democratic Policy Committee hearing yesterday. The hearing follows on the heals of many Senate hearings into waste and fraud in Iraq.
March 11th the Senate Appropriations committee held a hearing to "Examine Waste, Fraud, and Abuse of American Tax Dollars in Iraq." April 16th, the same Senate committee heard testimony from the White House budget director Jim Nussle. In the March hearing, Senator Byron Dorgan declared that the waste and fraud discussed was just "the tip of the iceberg" and that the hearing "ought to be the first of a dozen or two dozen hearings." Dorgan chaired the committee hearing.

Senator Byron Dorgan: In March, the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing at my request, in which we heard from a very courageous Iraqi judge who headed Iraq's Commission of Public Integrity. This agency was established by the Coalition Provisional Authority after the US invasion of Iraq, and charged with rooting out corruption in the new government. Judge al-Radhi estimated that corruption in Iraq's government had resulted in the loss of $18 billion in government funds, and most of those funds had been US tax payer dollars. Judge Radhi said that instead of supporting his efforts to fight corruption, the top levels of the Iraqi government had ultimately suppressed his investigations. [. . . ] Judge Radhi also testified that since the establishment of the Commission of Public Integrity, more than 31 employees have been assassinated as well as at least an additional 12 family members. One would have expected that our own government would have been doing everything it could to support Judge Radhi's anti-corruption efforts. But in hearing of this committee back in May, we heard from two State Dept officials who said that our own government was not interested in ensuring accountability of U.S. funds in Iraq or in rooting out corruption. In fact, one of the officials, retired judge Arthur Brenna, said that some of the stolen funds were steered to the Iraqi insurgency. Yet the administration was generally indifferent to the problem. This indifference has had deadly consequences. We will hear from witnesses today -- one of whom was Judge Radhi's chief investigator in Iraq -- about how stolen US funds have gone to al Qaeda in Iraq. Our earlier hearing with Judge Brennan showed us that the State Dept turns a blind eye when it comes to corruption. Today's hearing will show us what the State Dept turned a blind eye to -- and what the consequences have been.

The committee heard from two witness and who knows what. Considering the long practice of trotting liars to the US Congress to argue this or that about Iraq (see the first Bush White House nonsense about incubators), an 'anonymous' witness really isn't going to be taken seriously by most people. (All the more so if they hear his reasons for wanting to be anonymous -- Iraq was his country, he came to America long before the start of the illegal war, some day he might want to hold office in Iraq . . .) For the record, much of what the unnamed stated fits points raised in snapshots; however, we're not going to focus on an anonymous witness.

The two actual witnesses were Salam Adhoob whom Dorgan was referring to in the excerpt above. Adhoob was the chief investigator for the Commission on Public Integrity (CPI) in Iraq. He spoke via a translator throughout. Abbas Mehdi was the other witness and he was the chair National Investment Commission in Iraq. He spoke without a translator. In Adhoob's prepared testimony that he read to the committee, he noted:

Based on the cases that I have personally investigated, I believe that at least $18 billion have been lost in Iraq through corruption and waste, more than half of which was American tax payer money. Of this $18 billion, I believe at least $4 billion have been lost due to corruption and criminal acts in the Ministry of Defence alone. [. . .] During my time at the agency, the CPI worked closely with the Bureau of Supreme Audit which is Iraq's version of the Government Accountability Office. In 2007, the BSA conducted an extensive audit of American reconstruction projects in Iraq. The BSA attempted to track every American-funded project in the country, visited project sites, interviewed Iraqi government officials about the status of the projects and reviewed contradicting documents that were available for inspection. In a report that has never been made public, the BSA revealed that it could not properly account for more than $13 billion in American reconstruction funds. During their audit of American reconstruction contracts, BSA officials uncovered ghost projects that never existed, projects that the Iraqi government deemed unnecessary and work that was either not performed at all or done in a shoddy manner by both American and Iraqi contractors. To cite just one example from the BSA audit, approximately $24.4 million was spent on an electricity project in Ninewa Province that the BSA concluded existed only on paper. While the BSA found that many of these projects were not needed -- and many were never built -- this very real fact remains: the billions of American dollars that paid for these projects are now gone.

Senator Robert Byrd: If your investigators uncovered evidence implicating American contractors or officials in case of fraud or corruption who was responsible for making that case and making those arrests and did you work with or receive good cooperation from your American counterparts?

Salam Adhoob: I was already responsible for a lot of investigations and some American counselors and advisers helped me; however, I have to say in order to be honest that not all the advisers and counselors at the American embassy were helpful. I would also go far as saying that some of these have helped the corrupt people. Here's an example that one American adviser specialized in human rights and he works for the Iraqi Ministry of Defence. He visited him [Adhoob, the translator begins going from "I" to "him"] in his office and he screamed at his face and this is recorded he says asking him not to investigate a particular case, screaming again and again, "Why are you investigating this case? This is American money. This is not your money." And he also sent a message in that regard. There are many, unfortunately many Americans, who are like that particular adviser who, again, asked him not to investigate with a particular American person because "the money is American money."

Senator Robert Byrd: Mr. Adhoob, if corrupt officials illegally move funds outside Iraq what resources did you have to continue investigation, make an arrest or recover the stolen funds?

Salam Adhoob: He's giving one example. He says, I'll give you one example here that there is a person an American who have helped the officials, some officials, in the Ministry of Defence, and Mr. [Nair Mohammed] Jummailly that he mentioned in his statement, he helped them to smuggle outside of Iraq, six hundred million dollars to Jordan and one hundred million to Beirut. And that person was an adviser to the Iraqi Central Bank. When the officials in the airport, in the Baghdad International Airport were again leaving or sending these sums of money, these huge sums of money to leave Iraq, he would use -- that adviser would use -- his influence with the central bank in order to overcome the objections of the officials of the international airport.

In answer to Byrd's question as to which "banks Iraqi officials were using to hide these funds," Adhoob listed the Jordanian Housing Bank ("great majority money of went to"), the National Bank in Jordan, the International Bank of Beirut "and to other banks in the UAE". Adhoob stated that money that went to the Jordanian Housing Bank then saw a portion go to Germany "and he has documents to prove that. The reason for Germany in particular is that Mr. Jummaily that he talked about in his statement has accounts in Germany, in addition, the current Minister of Defence has accounts in Germany also. Other, smaller chunks of money settled finally in New York and Pennsylvania."

Dropping back to another opening statement.

Abbas Mehdi: The Commission of Public Integrity, the chief anti-corruption agency in the country, has been given neither the authority nor the independence it needs to work effectively. As a result, there have been no prosecutions for the embezzlement of public funds. Even worse, the Iraqi Parliament has now taken proactive steps to obstruct efforts to root out corruption. At the press conference on August 30, 2008, the head of the CPI also complained that the amnesty law passed by the Iraqi Parliament on January 12, 2008 will prevent the investigation of some 700 cases of alleged corruption, some at the cabinet level, in Baghdad alone. The costs of corruption fall most heavily on ordinary Iraqi citizens. They are the ones who suffer from the complete absence of services: no water, no electricity, no oil and too little security. Just to give on example, $17 billion of Iraqi money plus $4 to 5 billion of US money has been spent on the electricity infrastructure in Iraq. But what has more than $20 billion brought the Iraqi people? In Baghdad today, more than five years after the start of war, residents have electricity for about one hour in every seven hour period.

A CODEPINK protestor decided to make a statement in the middle of the hearing by rising and declaring, "Excuse me, I don't know the protocol here but it seems to me that it seems to me -- I'm sorry that the travesty of the American public are losing money . . . I think we should focus on the average Iraqi citizen who had nothing to do with this occupation and are suffering -- and we can bail out Wall Street and couldn't give anything to the average Iraqi citizen." Next up, CODEPINK attends a vegan breakfast which they disrupt by calling for people to stop eating meat.

Senator Amy Klobuchar: One thing I've taken away from these hearings, in response to what the woman just said, the Iraqi citizens have suffered because of this corruption and loss of money and we've also learned that the, really, credibility of the Iraqi government has suffered and also our American soldiers have suffered as we've had other hearings where we've learned about contractors in a black market where ice is taken -- and sold on the black market that was supposed to go to our soldiers when it's 110 degrees outside. So I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman [Dorgan] for holding these hearings. I also want to welcome Dr. Mehdi to this hearing. I have known him for many years -- first through my father and then my family has eaten dinner at his home, he's a very good cook, Chairman Dorgan, so maybe at some point, he'll cook for us here in Washington and he's also a well respected academic in Minnesota and has worked on a bi-partisan basis to work with many elected officials and give them his insight into what is going on in Iraq. So thank you very much for your service. Mr. Mehdi, you said unless corruption is rooted out there's very little chance of achieving stability in Iraq and I think that the members of this committee would strongly agree with your assessment. Given how pervasive this corruption is -- as we've heard from you and our other witnesses -- what recommendations would you give US officials on how to combat corruption and what role can Congress play?

Abbas Mehdi: Thank you, Senator. You know, Senator, when United States went to Iraq, they went with high minded mission and the goal for Iraq was really high minded mission -- rebuild Iraq, socially, economically, politically. And Iraq people in the beginning were happy and believed what the US said. Now five years on, Iraq today in a bad shape, worse than the era of Saddam, sadly to tell you this. So what can be done? There were so many mistakes. And as a basic principle, you need to recognize the mistakes first, then to admit these mistakes, then to go from there. I think when Bremer went to Iraq, made a serious mistake, there's are some problem with the Constitution, there's a problem with the ethnic policy, and there's a problem they brought wrong people and they give them power and authority. Now, if you really want to do it right, because there is no hope now, you have to move everybody and you start from the beginning. Is the United States ready to do that? I don't think so? Maybe through the international community. Because until now Iraq people are dying, suffering and, still in Baghdad -- this is the capitol, only one hour every seven hours they receive electricity. There's no medicine. There's no food. How long is it going to take? So either the United States is able to help Iraqi people and do something dramatic or leave them alone.

Staying with the topic of contracts (or 'rewards'),
AP reports that Perini Corp had just "won more work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers valued at about $170 million to build bomb-resistant roofing and buildings in Iraqi war zones." And the BBC notes the deal between the 'government' of Iraq and Royal Dutch Shell ("the second between the government and a foreign firm since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003") that Hussein al-Shahristanti (Minister of Oil) signed off on yesterday. Sam Dagher (New York Times) points out, "The company described its decision to open an office here as a milestone that partly reflected the vast improvement in Iraq's stability compared with conditions during the worst years of the war. But in a sobering reminder of the underlying dangers of doing business here, the company would not disclose the location of its office, and the senior Shell official who announced the gas deal was accompanied by a phalanx of armed guards." Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) explains, "This is the second deal that the elected Iraqi government has concluded with a foreign firm, after a $3 billion deal with the China National Petroleum Corp." and that "Western oil companies are eager to return to Iraq, but the parliament has yet to pass a law that would give them a large stake in oil production in Iraq. Many Iraqis worry that foreign oil companies would exploit the country's oil fields with no benefit to Iraqis."

Today the US Senate Committee on Armed Services went through the motions. Appearing before the commitee were the US Sec of Defense Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Gen James E. Cartwright. It was time to yet again serve up five-year-old left overs and hope someone nibbled. Gates offered, "The president has called our reduction in troops numbers a 'return on success.' I, of course, agree, but I might expand futher. The changes on the ground and in our posture are reflective of a fundamental change in the nature of the conflict. In past testimony, I have cautioned that, no matter what you think about the origins of the war in Iraq, we must get the endgame there right. I believe we have now entered the endgame -- and our decisions today and in the months ahead will be critical to regional stability and our national security interests in the next few years." Staying with the Defense Dept, Lt Gen Lloyd Austin III briefed reporters yesterday from Iraq and used "positive" and "progress" repeatedly. For what doesn't matter,
check out the write up by Adam Levine (CNN). The press briefing was so much more interesting. Austin did a hard sell on the "Awakening" Council members declaring, "One of our primary focus areas as we move foward is transitioning the Sons of Iraq program to the Iraqi government. The volunteer movement that started in Anbar and spread across the rest of the country significantly contributed to the security successes that we are now taking advantage of. The Sons of Iraq have paid a heavy price fight al Qaeda and other insurgent groups, and it's important that the government of Iraq responsibly transition them into meaningful employment. Prime Minister Maliki has assured me that the government will help those who help the people of Iraq. And so next week in Baghdad the government will accept responsibility for approximately 54,000 Sons of Iraq, and we will be there to assist in the transfer. We spent the last few weeks working hand in hand with our Iraqi partners on this transition, and I'm confident that this will go well. And you should know that we will not abandon the Sons of Iraq." In response to a question from Bill McMichael of Military Times, Austin stated that there were 99,000 "Awakening" Council members and 54,000 are in Baghdad "so we will start with the Baghdad province next month and transition that element first, and then we will begin to move to other parts of the country and transition those elements." The most interesting exchange took place when JJ Sutherland (NPR) attempted to pin down Austin on what happens when the 54,000 transfer over in terms of what they do now and what they will do? Sutherland had to repeatedly bring up the issue of "Awakening" Council members currently staffing checkpoints in Baghdad and ask what happens to those checkpoints? Austin's repeated replies indicated he hadn't understood the question because no one in the US military had thought about that. Best echange.
JJ Sutherland: Sir, I understand that but I'[m saying, "What happens in October? I understand eventually you want to have them be plumbers or electricians. But in October, there are a lot of checkpoints that have been manned by the Sons of Iraq. Are those checkpoints all going to go away? Are they only going to be staffed by Iraqi police now? That's my question. It's not eventually, it's next month.

Lt Gen Lloyd Austin: Yeah. Next month the Iraqi government will begin to work their way through this. And there's no question that some of them, some of the checkpoints, many of the checkpoints, will be -- will be manned by Iraqi security forces. In some cases, there may be Sons of Iraq that will be taksed to help with that work. But in most cases, I think the Iraqi government will be looking to transition people into different types of jobs.

At which point the Pentagon's spokesperson (DOD press office director) Gary Keck jumped in with the cry of one more question.
Erica Goode (New York Times) reported today on the tensions in Baghdad as the transfer of "Awakening" to the puppet government approaches and notes that "Awakening" Councils in Adhamiya "have posed increasing problems. . . . Some residents complain that the men, not a few of them swaggering street toughs, use their power to intimidate people. Sometimes violence erupts."


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 Baghdad roadside bombings that resulted in 1 death and seven people wounded, and two Basra roadside bombings resulted in 1 death. Reuters notes an Iskandariya roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 person "and wounded his wife and son".


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Sulaimniyah court house shooting that claimed the life of a Hassan Ghalib and left a police officer wounded while US forces shot dead Jassim Mohammed Al Garout ("Awakening" Council head) in Salahuddin. Reuters notes 1 person was shot dead in Mosul.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul.

Today the
US military announced: "A Multi-National Division -- Center Soldier was killed as a result of a small-arms fire attack west of Salman Pak Sept. 23." McClatchy Mohammed Al Dulaimy reports that Iraqi police state two US soldiers died, that 2 Iraqis were killed in the exchange and that "[p]olice said the attacker saw American soldiers searching an Iraqi woman using their hands, which prompted him to pen fire on the soldiers." The announcement brings to 4170 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war with 19 for the month thus far.

George Bryson's "
Army Ordered to discharge soldier who found religon in Iraq" (McClatchy's Anchorage Daily News) reports that US District Judge John Sedwick has ordered that Private First Class Michael Barnes be released from the US military as a conscientious objector (with honorable discharge). Judge Sedwick found the army's claims that this was some maneuver on Barnes' part to avoid service were assertions the military failed to prove and that "testimony by a chaplain, a psychiatrist, fellow soldiers and Barnes himself proved the contrary." The ruling should shed a light on how the military really isn't in the place to 'judge' faith and that should have been evident in the case of Agustin Aguayo. The military's rejection of Agustin's claim was an offence to faith because it went against the teachings and beliefs of most faiths, with the military arguing, in effect, that faith was a static state of being and that it could not awaken or deepen. Obviously, most faiths advocate that belief that a believer grows in their faith. That can be seen in the stories describing the testings of Jesus Christ. (The testings of, not the teachings of.)The process isn't going to change tomorrow. And it didn't change greatly during Vietnam. (1968 saw a shake up of the CO process and guidelines.) The peace movement of that period ended the draft and that is and was an important victory but the CO process is something that many members of Congress (at that time) would make sympathetic comments of but the issue was dropped. Following the end of the current illegal war, the peace movement would be smart to pursue this because the policy rarely changes in the midst of a war (of any war).Religious faith is not necessary for CO status (though the military currently 'forgets' that and is allowed to get away with 'forgetting' it) but we're going to focus on that aspect due to the above ruling.A counter-argument against CO status (and against war resistance) is, "You knew what you were signing up for." No, you didn't. You couldn't. And that is the story of the trials and testing of Jesus. You may think you do, but there is the abstract and there is the actual.Stephen Fortunato was a CO during Vietnam and his case was not that different from Agustin's. Like Aguayo, Fortunato had an awakening and stopped carrying his weapon. (Agustin stopped carrying a loaded weapon.) Like Aguayo, Fortunato enlisted, he was not drafted. After his discharge, he attended Providence College and wrote a paper that was widely circulated at the time. In it, he noted:
I came to conscientious objection over a somewhat circuitous route -- via the Marine Corps. At the age of eighteen I freely enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve, more out of a spirit of adolescent adventure than anything else, and certainly not because I thought freedom would be better preserved if the government stuck an M-1 in my hands.With all the passion and exuberance of youth I became a trained killer. I went to classes where I learned how to rip a man's jugular vein out with my teeth. I growled like a tiger when I was told to growl like a tiger. (It would indeed by edifying for religious and educational leaders to see their flocks brandishing bayonets and yelping and grunting on command, like well-trained jungle beasts -- all for the preservation of Western civilization!)
I was told that the Ten Commandments, however worthy they might be in civilian life, had to be suspended in the name of national interest. I was greatly impressed to see that an act perpetrated by the enemy was ipso facto vicious and deceitful, whereas the self-same act perpetrated by the United States was just and praiseworthy.For two years I did my reserve duty without questioning the purposes or the means of the armed forces. It remained for one of the cruder excesses of military training to wrench me from the spiritual doldrums.
[. . .]
My first break with the ways of the military was emotional and intuitive. The contradictions of war and war preparations became clear and self-evident. It did not become a rational creature to permit himself to be led in cries for destruction of human life; a truly free man would not support a totalitarian system to defend freedom; one cannot bring about peace by threatening to incinerate mankind. No, I came to believe that a free man preserves his freedom by acting freely and not by following those would would herd men into regiments or send people scurrying like moles into bomb shelters. Most important of all, the free man must remain free not to kill or to support killing.
[. . .]
I knew I had arrived at conscientious objection. I was opposed in body and soul to the organized, budgeted, and officially sanctified use of violence called war. I was opposed to the compulsory and regimented aberration from the laws of God and reason, called conscription. I could no longer, in conscience, bear arms.What course of action was I to take? I had freely enlisted in the reserves. But how free was I? Our society conspires in favor of the armed camp set-up we now live in. At the age of eighteen, I had not once considered military service as confronting me with a moral decision. It is one of the more gruesome paradoxes of our time than in a free -- or supposedly so -- society the atmosphere of choice on such a crucial issue had been so stifled.Again, in 1968 the military's CO policies were updated and while that can be seen as a small vicotry the problem then is the problem today: the written policy is not really followed. During times of peace, it generally is and we may back off from the issue as a result. But following the end of this current illegal war, a serious investigation by Congress into how the written policy was followed or ignored is needed. Many members of the peace movement advocate for expanding the written policy (I'm not opposed to that) but the reality is that the written policy is yet again not being followed and that many attempting CO status would earn it under the current policy (as is) if it were only followed.

Turning to the US presidential race. The Democratic ticket is Obama-Biden.
Yesterday, the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric featured a segment with Senator Joe Biden. Couric asked Biden how he was doing preparing for his debate with GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and, "Are you worried that you're going to have to pull your punches a bit because of her gender and you don't want to seem like you're bullying her? It's a different dynamic when it's a male/female thing, isn't it?" Biden replied, ""I don't know, is it? We're sitting here doing it right now, aren't we? Look, all kidding aside. So maybe it's a generational thing but I don't start this thing thinking 'Oh my God, this is a woman, I had better treat her differently.'" On the Obama campaign's recent ad mocking John McCain's computer skills, Biden stated, "I thought that was terrible, by the way." Couric asked, "Why did you do it then?" Biden replied, "I didn't know we did it and if I had naything to do with it, we would have never done it." And chugging down that high road, the Obama campaign unveils a new ad, as Wally and Cedric note, which deals with the very pressing 'issue' of what kind of cars GOP presidential nominee John McCain owns? He owns one car, by the way.

Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate and
he writes (in US News & World Reports):

The broadcasts of the presidential debates this year will reach 60 million or more Americans. The array of candidates running includes two former members of Congress--Libertarian Bob Barr and Green Cynthia McKinney--as well as me, but viewers will see only two choices: a Democrat and a Republican. The rest of us are not invited. Few voters likely know that the debate sponsor, the Commission on Presidential Debates, was created in 1987 by the two parties. Don't be fooled by its claim that its goal is to provide "the best possible information to viewers and listeners." Its purpose is to give the parties cover when they bar other legitimate candidates from debating.

Team Nader notes:
Okay, time for action. The first Presidential debate is Friday. And we're getting stonewalled. They won't let Ralph Nader into the Presidential debates. So, here's what we're going to do. It's a two step process. Step one -- call Barack Obama. Tell Obama he should demand that Ralph Nader be included in the debates. And step two -- e-mail the Commission on Presidential Debates. And let them know you are onto their game. Here are the details. Step one: Call Barack Obama at 866-675-2008. Hit 6 to speak with a campaign volunteer. Once connected, politely deliver the following message: Hi, my name is ... I was wondering if Senator Obama, being a believer in equal opportunity and equal rights, could insist that Ralph Nader and other ballot qualified third party candidates be included in the upcoming Presidential debates? After all, Nader is on 45 state ballots. And he's polling well nationwide. And he could help Senator Obama challenge the corporate Republicans. True, Ralph would critique Senator Obama for his corporate ties also. But isn't that what democracy is about? Could you please leave this message for the campaign manager? Thank you. Step two:
E-mail Janet Brown, the executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates. Here's a sample e-mail: Dear Janet Brown: Greetings. You must be busy. Preparing for the first Presidential debate this Friday. So, I won't take much of your time. Just wanted to let you know that the American people were not born yesterday. We know the deal. Take that little private corporation that you run. Controlled by the two corporate parties. And funded by big business. For the purpose of excluding independent minded candidates. Friday, two Wall Street candidates are scheduled to be in the ring. Barack Obama and John McCain. The one candidate who represents the American people, Main Street, if you will, will be on the outside looking in. So, here's a simple request. Drop your exclusionary restrictions. And let Ralph Nader into the debates. It will be good for your conscience. Good for the American people. (I believe it was The League of Women Voters that called your corporatized debates "campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity, and honest answers to tough questions.") And good for democracy. Let the American people have a real debate for once. Main Street vs. Wall Street. Thank you. Signed your name. Onward to November The Nader Team

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