Friday, November 02, 2007

Medea Benjamin, female columnists

First up, thank you so much to Ava and C.I. I did have plans with Mike but was going to try to blog (he did). When they offered, I immediately took them up on it. They wrote "Amy Goodman (Ava and C.I. filling in for Elaine)" and it really is wonderful. Thank you to both of them. I'd also encourage you to read Amy Goodman's "For Whom the Bell's Palsy Tolls" (Truthdig via Common Dreams) if you haven't already.

"George Bush and CODEPINK: Women for Peace" (Medea Benjamin, Common Dreams):
On October 24, White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino made the hilarious statement that "Unfortunately, it seems that increasingly Congress is being run by CODEPINK." On September 11, the day after the General Petraeus hearing, Spokesman Tony Snow said, "I don't think it can have been good for Democrats yesterday to have had the MoveOn ad or to have had the CODEPINK demonstrators...trying preemptively to smear General Petraeus."
MoveOn does have close ties to the leadership of the Democratic Party, but this is not the case for CODEPINK. CODEPINK is non-partisan, and many of our local groups have waged intense campaigns against high-profile Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, for not doing more to end the war. Nancy Pelosi is so furious at CODEPINK for camping outside her San Francisco home that she has refused to meet with us despite dozens of requests. After our relentless campaign to pressure Hillary Clinton to take a stronger stand against the war (see ), her security guards try to block us from even entering her events.
So while the Republicans are trying to falsely associate the Democratic leadership with CODEPINK, we’ve come a long way since the days when the Bush Administration refused to even acknowledge the anti-war movement. When we mobilized millions of people out in the streets on February 15, 2003, in the largest anti-war rallies in history, Bush dismissed us a "focus group" and charged ahead with his war plans.
Now, with less than 30 percent of Americans supporting Bush's policy in Iraq, the Administration's repeated references to CODEPINK and MoveOn is an admission of the power of the millions of dissenting Americans who are pressuring Congress, marching in the streets, supporting peace candidates and otherwise pushing to end this war and stop a new one with Iran.

C.I. notes this in the snapshot so read that at the end. I enjoyed Medea Benjamin's column (no surprise there) but it actually made me reflect on two things that went up yesterday.

First up, Rebecca's "stacy bannerman & the facts of life." Please make a point to read that if you haven't already. Medea's written a strong column, no question. But if Medea and Ann Wright, Missy Comley-Beattie, Stacy Bannerman, Cindy Sheehan and Amy Branham didn't write, do you realize how weak women would be in the op-eds online? All of those women write about the illegal war and other topics as well. But how many of our professional female columnists seriously and regularly write about the illegal war?

Not many. Yet, we'll hear that the mainstream didn't invite this amount or that amount onto the chat & chews. On the center-left and left, where are the women with strong voices? Maureen Dowd isn't really political (I'm not insulting her). She has a tendency to focus on the individual. She is however the strongest voice among the professional writers (female) in print and she has repeatedly covered the illegal war.

We really need to take a moment to appreciate Sheehan, Wright, Benjamin, Comley-Beattie, Bannerman and Branham. If they weren't writing, what would be left with? Some of the most shallow and pathetic writing. Week after week, column after column.

I don't know if Marget Kimberley's in a paper. She is online (Black Agenda Report) and she's a very strong voice tackling very serious subjects each week. But think about how many women -- Gail Collins, Katha Pollitt, go down the list (and they are all White) -- seem to be suffering Carrie Bradshaw damage and think the world really needs their pith.

After you start to think about, you might wonder if these pathetic women are hired precisely because they are pathetic? Where is the female who pushes every limit like Alexander Cockburn in a magazine or newspaper? On the left, where is she?

We've got a lot of weak sisters and that makes it all the harder to complain about the representation when the chat & chews and NewsHour tends to book male columnists. Really, who are they going to go with instead? Dowd's wonderful in print but she doesn't appear to enjoy TV and sometimes TV doesn't enjoy her. So she limits her TV appearences. But do we have a woman who can write above the 7th grade reading level turning out a column in a newspaper regularly? If you can think of one, then ask yourself what she focuses on?

Thomas Friedman's a blubbering idiot. If he was trying to work Dave Barry's field, no one would pay him any attention. But as dumb as he is, the fact that he bungles serious topics allows him to be seen as 'serious.'

Maybe it's time female columnists stopped writing about their weight and their shoes and their boyfriends (or ex-boyfriends) and started getting serious. Don't bore me with Katha Pollitt's latest. C.I. and I were laughing on the phone about it last night. She's going after a right-winger male. Her second time this year. But what's been in between is really pathetic and really underscores that she can't write worth sh*t unless she's writing about someone she loathes.

Of course, Katha is den mother to the Mud Flap Gals who seem to believe that all of life's problems can be addressed via pop culture. If they've ever had a thought deeper than their nail polish, the nation would be shocked. (Credit to C.I. whose college remark -- pre-online days -- I just grafted.)

It is just really pathetic that women have to settle for this kind of 'representation'. It's also highly pathetic that professional writers think they're making a feminist statement by proving to the world just how pathetic they can be. Katha Pollitt's live-in dumped her. She then humiliated herself in her personal life but that wasn't enough. Instead, she had to pass it off as a female experience and write about it in what can really only be described as a non-stop babble.

I'm sorry that the den mother thinks that's women's experiences. It's not all women and feminists should have a great deal more self-respect. Katha Pollitt's essay from The New Yorker has made it into her really bad book and it's a yawn-fest version of Fatal Attraction. Katha Pollitt, selling the backlash since at least the 1990s.

Which brings me to the other piece, C.I.'s "And the war drags on . . ." from late last night. I didn't catch it until today. I don't know how it happened. Rebecca swears C.I. sounded "about to fall over" during the roundtable for the gina & krista round-robin last night. After that, C.I. had to pen (the amazing) column for the round-robin. Only after that did C.I. get to write that entry and it was after a day that contained eight groups (Jim was with Ava and C.I. on the road this week speaking about Iraq).

Read C.I.'s entry and think about that. Then marvel over the entry all over again. C.I.'s addressing the pathetic Pollitt, Pollitt's attacks on Cindy Sheehan, the resurgence of Naomi Wolf, the disconnect so many are living with and the peace movement. It's amazing. Rebecca told me she had no idea what C.I. was going to write (they were on the phone after the round-table) and that neither did C.I. She said C.I. told her, "If I could do anything, it would be a link-fest just so I could get some sleep. I am so tired." It's not a link-fest. C.I.'s written an essay.

Now Pollitt, by contrast, has to write 12 columns for a political magazine (The Nation) a year. One of those columns is her "Donate to these groups" piece of crap that comes out every Christmas. Then she does her New Year's column. So right away, the most the world can hope for is that her lazy ass will address politics ten times a year. Yet, Pollitt can't even manage that.
How does someone that pathetic end up at a political magazine? Apparently, she got lost on the way to Glamour.

Why women are putting up with this is another question? The kind of crap Pollitt's been churning out regularly for the last three years is only slightly better than the "women's magazine" crap in the 70s that led to sit-ins and occupations of the magazine's offices.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, November 2, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, Barack Obama sits down with the New York Times and flashes his War Hawk, and more.

Starting with war resistance. War resister Joshua Key told his story in
The Deserter's Tale and now Key's book is among those optioned to tell the story of the illegal war on the big screen. Eric Jordan has optioned Key's story. Jordan and partner Paul Stephens began their producing careers with documentaries made for television at The Film Works, their Toronto based production company. Their latest release is Beowulf and Grendel in 2005 featuring Sarah Polley and many others. Josh Getlin (Los Angeles Times) quotes Jordan, "I didn't set out to make a pro-Iraq war movie or an anti-Iraq war movie. I wanted to make a movie about people under pressure, real people, and the fact that this is complex world. Just imagine what this kid went through, never dreaming he'd desert the U.S. Army. That's a great book -- and a great movie." And a story that needs to be told. Time and again, war resisters who go public cite the internet overwhelming. Helga and Agustin Aguayo have also cited David Zeiger's documentary of resistance within the military during Vietnam, Sir! No Sir! If Jordan is able to bring Key's story to the screen, it will have an impact.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key,
Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.

National Lawyers Guild's convention begins shortly: The Military Law Task Force and the Center on Conscience & War are sponsoring a Continuing Legal Education seminar -- Representing Conscientious Objectors in Habeas Corpus Proceedings -- as part of the National Lawyers Guild National Convention in Washington, D.C. The half-day seminar will be held on Thursday, November 1st, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the convention site, the Holiday Inn on the Hill in D.C. This is a must-attend seminar, with excelent speakers and a wealth of information. The seminar will be moderated by the Military Law Task Force's co-chair Kathleen Gilberd and scheduled speakers are NYC Bar Association's Committee on Military Affairs and Justice's Deborah Karpatkin, the Center on Conscience & War's J.E. McNeil, the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee's Peter Goldberger, Louis Font who has represented Camilo Mejia, Dr. Mary Hanna and others, and the Central Committee for Conscientious Objector's James Feldman. The fee is $60 for attorneys; $25 for non-profit attorneys, students and legal workers; and you can also enquire about scholarships or reduced fees. The convention itself will run from October 31st through November 4th and it's full circle on the 70th anniversary of NLG since they "began in Washington, D.C." where "the founding convention took place in the District at the height of the New Deal in 1937, Activist, progressive lawyers, tired of butting heads with the reactionary white male lawyers then comprising the American Bar Association, formed the nucleus of the Guild."

Turning to US politics.
Margaret Kimberley (Black Agenda Report) summarizes the state of Senator Barack Obama's Democratic presidential primary campaign, "For months Obama was the political flavor of the month, wooed by fawning celebrities, and promoted by the corporate media. The stamp of approval from the right people had him sitting firmly atop an enormous pile of campaign cash. Now his deep pocketed contributors are showing signs of buyers' remorse, miffed because he is only neck and neck with Hillary Clinton in Iowa and trailing behind her in New Hampshire. Obama has been hoisted on his own petard. He assured Democrats that he was 'safe.' He openly scorned movement politics, and made the appeal of color blindness his calling card. He chose neo-con Bush suck-up Joe Lieberman as his Senate mentor. His criticisms of the evil occupation of Iraq focused not on murder and theft committed by Uncle Sam, but by the traumatized Iraqs' efforts to deal with an American-created hellish existence. Leaving 'all options on the table' is part of the Obama stump speech on Iran." On the subject of Iran, Barack Obama appears on the front page of this morning's New York Times. War pornographer Michael Gordon and Jeff Zeleny who lied in print (click here, here and here -- the paper finally retracted Zeleny's falsehood that should have never appeared) present a view of Barack Obama that's hardly pleasing. Among the many problems with the article is that Obama as portrayed in the article -- and his campaign has issued no statement clarifying. The Times has the transcript online and from it, Barack Obama does mildly push the unproven claim that the Iranian government is supporting resistance in Iraq. Gordo's pushed that unproven claim repeatedly for over a year now. But Obama's remarks appear more of a reply and partial points in lengthy sentences -- not the sort of thing a functioning hard news reporter would lead with in an opening paragraph, touch on again in the third paragraph, in the fourth paragraph, in . . . But though this isn't the main emphasis of Obama's statements (at any time -- to be clear, when it pops up, it is a fleeting statement in an overly long, multi-sentenced paragraphs), it does go to the fact that Obama is once again reinforcing unproven claims of the right wing. In the transcript, he comes off as obsessed with Hillary Clinton. After her, he attempts to get a few jabs in at John Edwards and one in at Bill Richardson. Here is what real reporters should have made the lede of the front page: "Presidential candidate and US Senator Barack Obama who is perceived as an 'anti-war' candidate by some announced that he would not commit to a withdrawal, declared that he was comfortable sending US troops back into Iraq after a withdrawal started and lacked clarity on exactly what a withdrawal under a President Obama would mean." That is what the transcript reveals. Gordo really needs to let go of his blood lust for war with Iran.

Writing up a report, Gordo and Zeleny are useless but, surprisingly, they do a strong job with some of their questions. The paper should have printed up the transcript. If they had, people might be wondering about the 'anti-war' candidate. He maintains Bill Richardson is incorrect on how quickly US troops could be withdrawan from Iraq. Obama states that it would take at least 16 months which makes one wonder how long, if elected, it would take him to move into the White House? If you can grab a strainer or wade through Obama's Chicken Sop For The Soul, you grasp quickly why he refused to pledge (in September's MSNBC 'debate') that, if elected president, he would have all US troops out of Iraq by 2013: He's not talking all troops home. He tries to fudge it, he tries to hide it but it's there in the transcript. He doesn't want permanent military bases in Iraq -- he appears to want them outside of Iraq -- such as Kuwait. But he doesn't see the US embassy in Iraq -- the largest US embassy in the world as a base. However, he does feel that even after the illegal war was ended, US troops would need to remain behind in order guard the embassy and the staff. In addition, it becomes clear that he will keep US troops in Iraq to train the Iraqi police. Because?

The reporters don't think to ask. Here's a slice of reality, the US military is not trained to train police officers. Here's another to drop on the plate, Jordan was training them. Jordan got pushed aside around the half-way mark of 2006. If Obama wanted to pull US troops out of Iraq, the most obvious solution is to turn over the duty of training police officers to a non-military force. Along with needing those for trainers, he needs some to protect the trainers. Gordo gets to the point asking, "So how will you protect the trainers without forces in Iraq?" His answer is an embarrassment, he could keep the trainers out of potentially difficult situations. And in Iraq, that would be where? In addition, he would keep troops in Iraq for counter-terrorism (but not, he insists, counter-insurgency). If this doesn't all sound familiar, you slept through this spring and summer when Congressional Dems tried repeatedly to convince the American people that "all troops out of Iraq" could also mean that US troops stay to train, as military police, to fight terrorism, etc. While he's off talking al Qaeda in Iraq (a small number and one most observers state will be forced out by Iraqis when US troops leave) and working in more attacks on Senator Clinton, it's noted that he has "a more expansive approach to Iraq than she does in that you identify in your plan the possiblity of going back into Iraq to protect the populartion if there's an all-out civil war. . . . And providing monitors to help the population relocate and go after war criminals. Those are three elements -- those are new missions for Americans after Iraq that she doesn't postulate." What follows is a comical exchange:

Obama: But they aren't necessarily military missions.

NYT: But how do you go back into Iraq without military forces?

Obama: No, no, no, no, no. You conflated three things. The latter two that you are talked about are not military missions. Let's just be clear about that.

NYT: An armed escort is not a military mission?

Though Obama says he wants "to be clear," he refuses to answer that yes or no question and the interview is over.

So let's be clear that the 'anti-war' Obama told the paper he would send troops back into Iraq. Furthermore, when asked if he would be willing to do that unilaterally, he attempts to beg off with, "We're talking too speculatively right now for me to answer." But this is his heavily pimped September (non)plan, dusted off again, with a shiny new binder. The story is that Barack Obama will NOT bring all US troops home. Even if the illegal war ended, Obama would still keep troops stationed in Iraq (although he'd really, really love it US forces could be stationed in Kuwait exclusively), he would still use them to train (the police0 and still use them to protect the US fortress/embassy and still use them to conduct counter-terrorism actions. Margaret Kimberley (cited at the opening of this section on politics) called it correctly. Meanwhile
Ruth Conniff (The Progressive) weighs in on the alleged Democratic 'debate' this week, dubbing it "pile-on-Hillary night," and wondering what the point of it really was: "But hanging over all this is the specter of the $90 million Hillary had raised by the middle of October. That huge amount of cash so outstrips the other candidates, it seems like a silly game of make-believe to pretend that a clever quip during a debate, or even the extremely important and legistimate points the candidates made last night, could change the dynamic of the race. It doesn't matter how trenchant your comments are if you are drowned out by the amplified voice of a frontrunner who can buy all the airtime that's left in this extremely short primary season." Also noting the heavy donations from big business is Bruce Dixon (Black Agenda Report), "For Democratic and Republican wings of America's permanent ruling party, the all-important selection which precedes the election isn't about poll numbers, votes or the citizens that cast them. It's about winning the favor of military contractors, the banking and financial sectors and Big Oil. It's about reassuring insurance and pharmaceutical companies, cozying up to agribusiness, the cable and telecom monopolies, allaying the fears of chambers of commerce, and wooing Hollywood." Dixon goes on to note the industries pouring big money in Obama and Clinton's campaigns, notes PEJ's tracking of the first six months of mainstream press coverage of the candidates this year -- Obama received more positive coverage from the mainstream than any other candidate for president -- almost 20% more than Hillary Clinton and approximately 19% more than Rudy Giuliani -- and concludes that the Dem presidential ticket will be Clinton-Obama (Clinton for president).

Meanwhile US House Rep and Democratic presidential nominee contender
Dennis Kucinich announced that he is calling for House vote next week. On? Impeachment of Cheney. Kucinich: "The momentum is building for impeachment. Millions of citizens across the nation are demanding Congress rein in the Vice President's abuse of power. Despite this groundswell of opposition to the unconstitutional conduct of office, Vice President Cheney continues to violate the U.S. Constitution by insisting the power of the executive branch is supreme. Congress must hold the Vice President accountable. The American people need to let Members of Congress know how they feel about this. The Vice President continues to use his office to advocate for a continued occupation of Iraq and prod our nation into a belligerent stance against Iran. If the Vice President is successful, his actions will ensure decades of disastrous consequences." His office notes, "The privileged resolution has priority status for consideration on the House floor. Once introduced, the resolution has to be brought to the floor within two legislative days, although the House could act on it immediately. Kucinich is expected to bring it to the House floor on Tuesday, November 6."

Kucinich was among those participating in a bi-partisan forum for candidates (Republican John McCain participated by phone, all others were Democrats).
Holly Ramer (AP) reports that the forum, geared to address concerns of the disabled community, resulted in participation from Dem presidential candidates Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton, Dennis Kucinich, Joe Biden and Mike Gravel. John Edwards sent a flack to address the group.

Turning to the Green Party.
Kimberly Wilder (On the Wilder Side) has posted Cynthia McKinney's declaration of candidacy. The form shows McKinney's signature with a date of October 16th next to it and the FEC (US Federal Elections Commission) lists October 22nd as the filing date. The Green Party of the United States notes, "Always a lightning rod for those who believe a woman's place is in the kitchen, Congressomwan Cynthia McKinney was the first Black woman elected to Georgia's state legislature. With rules that required she wear a dress ont he state house floor, she chose instead to wear a smart pants suit, letting them know that the days of the 'Good Ole Boy' system were a thing of the past. Now, she may be carrying that same message about the two-party system. Controversial not only for her choice of clothing, McKinney has spoken out against the war on Iraq from the beginning, and anti-war mom Cindy Sheehan calls her 'My friend who's running for President.' McKinney is being actively pursued by the Green Party as their nominee in 2008. Local Green Party chair Gregg Jocoy has already endorsed her possible run, saying, 'We had Ralph Nader on our ballot line in 2000, and that brought us recruits and supporters who are with us to this day. I know Cynthia McKinney will bring an entirely new and energized group of people to our side. Then it's our job to show them that we mean business." At All Things Cynthia McKinney, McKinney has posted an audio clip where she explains why she has declared herself a member of the Green Party "and when I vote Green I will vote my values." McKinney was elected to Congress six times as a member of the Democratic Party (1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2004). Is McKinney running for president? She concludes her audio message with, "I promise to announce my decision in November." Along with being a leading voice against the war in Congress, the Green Party also notes, "McKinney, who served a dozen years in Congress, filed impeachment papers on President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Sec. of State Rice as her last official act."

As noted Wednesday, Ralph Nader also intends to announce his decision of whether to run for president or not by the end of the year. On Wednesday, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) spoke with attorney Carl Mayer about the lawsuit being filed regarding attempts in 2004 to deny Nader ballot access. Over the summer, Ian Wilder filmed Nader discussing the ballot access issue and Ian and Kimberly Wilder have posted the video at their site On the Wilder Side. They have also made it available at YouTube.

Turning to some of today's reported violence in Iraq . . .


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a bridge bombing Thursday night in the Diyala. Reuters notes three injured in a Ramadi bombing and a Diwaniya roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 Polish soldiers with three more wounded. Counting today's death -- Andrzej Filipek, Poland has lost 23 troops in the illegal war. BBC reports, "The three injured soldiers are being treated in a hospital near the scene of the blast. The incident follows the attempted assassination in October of the Polish Ambassador to Iraq, Edward Pietrzyk."


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Gunmen opened fire on two pupils on Thursday afternoon near Tuz Khurmatu (south of Kirkuk) during their return from school in (Beer Ahmed) village killing one and injuring the other."


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad.

Also today, the
US military announced: "Three Airmen were killed Nov. 1 while performing combat operations in the vicinity of Balad Air Base, Iraq. All three were assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at Balad AB."

Staying with violence:

Apparently there is one set of rights for Blackwater mercenaries and another for the rest of us. Normally when a group of people alleged to have gunned down 17 civilians in a lawless shooting spree are questioned, investigators will tell them something along the lines of: "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law." But that is not what the Blackwater operatives involved in the September 16 Nisour Square shooting in Iraq were told. Most of the Blackwater shooters were questioned by State Department Diplomatic Security investigators with the understanding that their statements and information gleaned from them could not be used to bring criminal charges against them, nor could they be introduced as evidence. In other words: "Anything you say can't and won't be used against you in a court of law."
ABC News obtained copies of sworn statements given by Blackwater guards in the immediate aftermath of the shootings, all of which begin, "I understand this statement is being given in furtherance of an official administrative inquiry," and that, "I further understand that neither my statements nor any information or evidence gained by reason of my statements can be used against me in a criminal proceeding." Constitutional law expert
Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, says the offering of so-called "use immunity" agreements by the State Department is "very irregular," adding he could not recall a precedent for it. In normal circumstances, Ratner said, such immunity is only granted after a Grand Jury or Congressional committee has been conveyed and the party has invoked their 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination. It would then be authorized by either a judge or the committee.

Jeremy Scahill (Huffington Post via Common Dreams) on this week's big development with regards to the mercneary company -- the US State Department's own investigators offered Blackwater 'guards' immunity (limited-immunity, they insist) for their 'cooperation' in the investigation into the slaughter. On Wednesday Aram Roston (NBC News) reported, "Federal agents are investigating allegations that the Blackwater USA security firm illegally exported dozens of firearms sound suppressors -- commonly known as silencers -- to
Iraq and other countries for use by company operatives, sources close to the investigation tell NBC News. . . . The sources said the investigation is part of a broader examination of potential firearms and export violations." Meanwhile, the only US governmental entity to hold Blackwater accountable is the IRS. To avoid paying taxes, FICA, et al, Blackwater was categorizing its employees as contract labor. The IRS overruled that. Yesterday,
US Senator John Kerry notified Steven C. Preston, head of the U.S. Small Business Adminstration by letter that he needs answers regarding a Blackwater affilate, Presidential Airways, Inc, and requesting "A thorough analysis of the size determination made regarding Blackwater; The information that was relied on in making the size determination; The number of employees and independent contractors Blackwater and each of its affiliates or related companies listed in Size Determination Memorandum File Number 3-2007-3-4-5 were ddetermined to have through the SBA's analysis; The number (and location) of site visits that were done to confirm any information Blackwater or its affiliates provided; How the SBA used the Twenty Factor Common Law Test in making the size determination; Any additional materials related to other size determinations involving Blackwater USA or any of its affiliates." And on oversight . . . Jeremy Scahill addressed Blackwater on PBS' Bill Moyers Journal October 19th. He also answered questions the following week. One viewer asked about North Carolina's oversight responsibilities. Scahill replied, "I think this would be an important development. One of the interesting -- some might say distrubing -- aspects of Blackwater's presence in the US national security apparatus is its facilites. The main Blackwater headquarters in Moyock, North Carolina is a sprawling 7,000 acre private military base -- the largest of its kind in the world. The company has also been building a parallel network to the structure of the offical government apparatus. The Prince empire now includes an aviation division, a maritime division, an intelligence company and Blackwater manufactures both surveillance blimps and armored vehicles. It recently opened a new Blackwater facility in Illinois called 'Blackwater North' and is fighting back fierce local opposition to a planned 800+ acre facility in Poterero, California, just miles from the US-Mexico border. The Congressman who represents that district, Democrat Bob Filner, recently inroduced legislation seeking to block the creation of what he terms 'mercenary training centers' anywhere in the U.S. outside of military bases. While that is obviously at the federal level, it would be interesting to get basic questions answered about the legal framework for such facilities in the states in which they operate."

Turning to the continued tensions and conflict between Turkey and northern Iraq. Today
Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) quotes Air Force Gen. retired Joseph Ralston (whom Bully Boy appointed as his envoy to address the PKK) declaring, "The U.S. government should make good on the commitments they have made to the Turks." US Secretary State and Anger Condi Rice went to Turkey for a diplomatic meeting today. CBS and AP report that Rice declared, following the meeting, the US government's "committed to redoubling its efforts" in assisting Turkey in combating the PKK -- a group the US has labeled a "terrorist" organization. Rice's words ring as hollow as Hoshyar Zebari's, noted by Glen Carey (Bloomberg News), Iraq's Foreign Minister and Kurd -- that, yet again, Iraq's central government is serious about doing something. Rice says more talks will come tomorrow in Istanbul and Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan , meets with Bully Boy in DC on Monday. Translation, nothing has been accomplished.

From do-nothing to actual action,
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) explored the latest with CODEPINK today:

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to the bigger issue of CODEPINK. Actually, yesterday President Bush invoked CODEPINK's name. Let's hear what he had to say.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Congress needs to put the needs of those who put on the uniform ahead of their desire to spend more money. When it comes to funding our troops, some in Washington should spend more time responding to the warnings of terrorists like Osama bin Laden and the requests of our commanders on the ground, and less time responding to the demands of bloggers and CODEPINK protesters.
AMY GOODMAN: That's President Bush speaking yesterday. Medea Benjamin, your response?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, we think it's great that Bush mentioned us. We only wish he would have listened to us back in 2002, when we formed CODEPINK and said that invading Iraq would be a disaster. And, of course, we wish that he and Congress would listen to us now, when we say bring the troops home and don't invade Iran.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the strategy that you've employed and what it means to be banned from the Capitol. In fact, it wasn't just Desiree who was banned when she approached Condoleezza Rice; you, too, were banned that day, weren't you?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Yes. There were five of us that were pulled out of the hearing room. I was pulled out for going like this.

AMY GOODMAN: Meaning holding up a peace sign.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Holding up my hands in a peace sign, that's right. And I face a jury trial for that unlawful conduct. And they are cracking down harder on us. We have about a dozen CODEPINK men and women right now who are banned from the Capitol, which is something we would like to get some lawyers to contest the legality of that. In the meantime, we really need more people to come forward and join us in the CODEPINK house in D.C., because we're absolutely determined that we have people in every one of these hearings where they're talking about the war. And right now, there's going to be another big moment when Bush is asking for more money for the war, and Congress is going to have to decide whether they're going to give it to him. We need to be there in their faces every single day. So our appeal to all the listeners of Democracy Now! is: come to D.C. Stay at the
CODEPINK house. It's a fabulous experience. But we need you to be there when we can't.

Ruth notes, PBS' Bill Moyers Journal, tonight in most markets Moyers examines how FCC chair Kevin Martin's push to deregulate the communications industry will threaten minority ownership and that Moyers will also provide a commentary regarding press coverage of peace rallies. PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio (also Friday night in most markets, check local listings) looks at farming and asks, "Can local farmers change course and crops and still survive in a shifting economy?" Brancaccio interviews Bill McKibben and Steven L. Hopp is also interviewed on the program while online Hopp and Barbara Kingsolver offer an excerpt of their new book . And Sunday, CBS' 60 Minutes airs Bob Simon's report on 'Curveball' -- the Iraqi exile who invented stories the administration swallowed (despite warnings) because it fit with the other lies they were using to launch an illegal war.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Amy Goodman (Ava and C.I. filling in for Elaine)

When the federal government ended its 60-plus years of price support to tobacco farmers in 2004, Virginians were hit particularly hard. On Friday, November 2 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW travels to the mountainous farmlands of Appalachia to meet farmers who've attempted the difficult switch from tobacco to increasingly popular organic produce.
Among those profiled is restaurant owner Steven Hopp who, along with his wife -- acclaimed author Barbara Kingsolver -- spent a year living off the land.
Social entrepreneur Anthony Flaccavento founded an Enterprising Idea called "Appalachian Sustainable Development" to help local farmers and markets make the transition not just to organic, but to local organic.
Can local farmers change course and crops and still survive in a shifting economy?
Also on the show, David Brancaccio interviews prominent environmentalist Bill McKibben about his "National Day of Climate Action" on November 3, and what we can all do to fight global warming.
At NOW Online, read an excerpt from Hopp and Kingsolver's new book, and learn ways to become a "locavore" - someone who buys from her own community. Also, find out where your college alma mater ranks on a sustainability report card.

The above is what's coming up on That's PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio this week.

Ava and C.I. with you tonight. Elaine's at a party with Mike (who maintains he is blogging at his site) and we've offered to fill in. Jim's also going to be filling in for people. Since the three of us are on the road, we're not expected to go to a party.

Even when we're not on the road, we prefer to listen to Democracy Now! For us, we just absorb the stories, the remarks, better if we're listening. From time to time, there is footage shown and it does tell a story but if we're watching the footage, we're paying less attention to what's being said. On the road, it's really nice to be able to close your eyes and just listen. So when Amy Goodman announced she had Bell's Palsy, that was the first we knew of it.

Democracy Now! is a radio program, a TV program and an online program (audio and video and text). It took a great deal of courage to make the announcement herself and to do it on camera. Typically, she was very low key about. She announced it, in response to viewers contacting to make sure she was okay, and she and Juan Gonzalez moved on with that day's first story.

"Truest statement of the week" (The Third Estate Sunday Review, October 7, 2007)
"In the meantime, it just makes it harder to smile but so does the world."

-- Amy Goodman, Tuesday, October 2, 2007, Democracy Now!

We're tired so we're not going to note what side of the face it effected for her. We know it was the side that she's normally not filmed from -- left side? -- due to the natural set up of the show. If the layout of the set had been changed (because it had been the other side), we wouldn't have questioned it.

It's not the end of the world and we're not trying to make it sound like it is. Many people suffer from it at least one in a lifetime. Many stroke victims exhibit similar symptoms. But when you're before the cameras, every change is a big deal. More so when you're a woman. So it took a lot of guts for Goodman to say, "I'm just going to do what I always do."

This week, we believe on Monday, but we're not sure, we're on the road and we grab DN! where we can, when we can, Bernard Lewis told Goodman on WBAI that the Bell's Palsy was starting to go away. (That's not how he worded it and we're not sure of the proper term. Bell's Palsy, for most if not all, works itself out. Many suffer from it for no more than four to six weeks.) We made a point to watch today and he is correct. So there's no need to worry about Goodman.

We also don't want to make it sound like it was one of life's great tragedies. If Goodman had a stroke and it was a more permanent characteristic, we'd applaud and support her (or anyone else) going on camera with it. It enlarges everyone's understanding.

"Goodman's announcement" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) was an attempt to stress that and how Goodman being so upfront about it was courageous and helpful to so many (including many who will suffer from it on down the line). So when Elaine asked us to "not work too hard" filling in for her and we saw that Goodman had written on the topic, we figured that's what we'd note tonight.

"For Whom the Bell's Palsy Tolls" (Amy Goodman, Truthdig via Common Dreams):
Bell's palsy. It hit suddenly a month ago. I had just stepped off a plane in New York, and my friend noticed the telltale sagging lip. It felt like Novocain. I raced to the emergency room. The doctors prescribed a weeklong course of steroids and antivirals. The following day it got worse. I had to make a decision: Do I host "Democracy Now!," our daily news broadcast, on Monday? I could speak perfectly well, and I'm tired of seeing women (and men) on TV who look like they just stepped off the set of "Dynasty." Maybe if they see a person they trust to deliver the news, still there, but just looking a little lopsided, it might change their view of friends and family-or strangers, for that matter-who are struggling with some health issue.
Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia anyone can edit, stated that I had suffered a stroke. So on Tuesday I decided to tell viewers and listeners that I was suffering from a temporary bout of Bell's palsy, that it wasn’t painful and that "the doctors tell me I will be back to my usual self in the next few weeks. In the meantime, it just makes it a little harder to smile. But so does the world."
Bell's palsy affects 50,000 people in the U.S. every year. It is an inflammation of the seventh cranial nerve that connects to the eye, nose and ear. The inflammation causes temporary paralysis of the nerve. For some, the eye can't close, so they have to tape it shut at night, and some can't speak. George Clooney had it. Ralph Nader came down with it in the midst of a speaking tour. He was in Boston debating someone when his eye started to water and his mouth sagged. It didn't stop him. He continued his tour, just beginning each talk by saying, "At least you can't accuse me of speaking out of both sides of my mouth."
I was just in Santa Fe, N.M., interviewing Tim Flannery, voted 2007 Australian of the Year for his remarkable work as an explorer, paleontologist, zoologist and climate-change scientist. Before we went on the stage, I apologized for my crooked smile. He said he knew the feeling, having had shingles, a more painful viral condition that affects one side of the face. I was beginning to feel less and less alone.
The next day we broadcast from the New Mexico state Legislature. The cameraman told me that Ambassador Joe Wilson, husband of Valerie Plame, had just been in. He had been doing an interview with his wife from a remote studio with Larry King. The cameraman told Wilson that I had Bell’s palsy. He said that he, too, had suffered a bout of it. I caught up with Wilson after our morning broadcast. He described what happened to him. It was 10 years ago. He had just gotten off Air Force One in Africa with President Clinton. He splashed some water on his face, looked in the mirror and saw the telltale face sag, unblinking eye and mouth droop; he thought he had had a stroke. Walter Reed Army Medical Center was called, and Wilson was diagnosed with Bell's palsy within a few minutes. Clinton sat him down and said that he had known a number of people who had had Bell's, and that he should just carry on. It would go away. Wilson flew off to Luanda and gave a speech on the tarmac. Later that day, he passed a television set and hardly recognized himself, with his mouth askew. He thought he looked like the actor Edward G. Robinson, a tough-talking gangster speaking out of the side of his mouth.

We applaud Joe Wilson for going on. That's really all that you can do unless you're prepared to hide yourself away. But Wilson wasn't regularly on TV and all eyes weren't on him each morning. When someone's before the camera and they decide to be upfront and just go on like Goodman did, it makes a world of difference. It expands the space in terms of what can be shown on TV. (The disabled remains the minority group that still gets the least network and cable TV airtime -- which is why it's all the more offensive when a disabled character gets a miracle cure.) It also sends an important message that needs to reach all (women, yes, but not just women), your looks on any given day aren't you. If that's all you bring to the table, you need to rethink your life.

Goodman's decision has come up on the road and in Arizona, a young woman with a cold sore on her lip explained she was going to skip all classes unless there was a test due to the fact that she didn't think she could go out like that. To us, it was hardly noticeable, but we were seeing her after it had started to go down and our own flaws are always larger in our minds than they are in the eyes of others. But she skipped one day of classes and was in her dorm room preparing to skip her second. Then she saw Goodman making her announcement. She thought about it, took a shower, dressed slowly and went on to class. It may seem something minor, the student's story or Goodman's decision, to some, but it isn't. In the end, it's a story about acceptance.

When another student brought it up in North Carolina, a male student with a slight stammer said he'd decided he'd just speak without worrying. He explained everyone who ever heard him knew he had a stammer, there was no hiding it, and that Goodman's announcement just freed him to stop trying.

Other students cited other things about themselves that they worried about (and continue to cite it on many other campuses) and how it had forced them to take a look at it. One male student in a southern state was squeezing a rock throughout the entire discussion and he explained near the end that he was painfully, incredibly shy. His coach had given him the rock as an object to focus on in classes (he'd been close to losing his scholarship because, although he could always hit the field, he couldn't always face walking into a classroom). He explained people thought he was "Just a jock who didn't care about the war or anything around me" because he pretty much shot down every invitation. He'd missed the announcement but had heard about it and watched to see if it was true. (He said he wanted to stop and take part in the conversation about it that he overheard but couldn't due to his shyness.) That's what gave him the "nerve" to come to the discussion on Iraq. He brought his rock and had told himself he could get through it with the rock and just sitting there in silence. But he ended up sharing and sharing what turned him against the Iraq War and how frustrated he was with a "Congress that won't do anything."

There are many other examples. A student with a skin disorder spoke about the impact. From time to time, we'd ask if they'd e-mailed Democracy Now! to pass on what the announcement had meant for their own lives? All but two said they hadn't.

We understood that because when we did the two pieces at The Third Estate Sunday Review, there was concern of, "Do we want to write about this?" Yes, we did. In terms of the illegal war, a lot of Americans are coming home with disabilities. Physical disabilities will register visually. There can be a natural response of, "If I note it, it may make them uncomfortable." If they note it and you don't, that will make them uncomfortable.

Goodman provided a "teachable moment" (as Larry Bensky would word it) and it did have an impact. In all of our lives those moments occur. We may be tempted to smooth it over and ignore it. Maybe, at that time in our lives, that's all we can handle. But when someone does go public with something, it expands our understanding. Amy Goodman could have taken a (well deserved) vacation and avoided the public. She could have insisted that all segments be shot the way the interviews were (in the headlines segment she faces the camera directly -- she also does when the guest isn't in the studio across from her). We wouldn't have called either "cowardly" and would have understood. But she chose to be public with it and, in doing so, she did have an impact. (If she impacted you, you could drop a line at

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, October 31, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the price of oil hits a new record high, Tim Russert gets his ya-yas at the public's expense, Blackwater continues to raise eyebrows and more.

Starting with war resisters. Over the weekend,
Paul St. Armand's Parallels won the Canadian Reflections Award at the enRoute Student Film Festival in Toronto. Among those serving as judges for the festival were film producer Denise Robert, actor-writer-director Patrick Huard, director-animator Torill Kove, director Atom Egoyan, producer Robert Lantos, actor-producer Donald Sutherland and film critic (Toronto Star) Geoff Pevere. Halifax' The Daily News explains, "Parallels is a double portrait of U.S. amry deserters from the Vietnam and Iraq wars. The film won Best Documentary at the 2007 BC Student Film Festival, was a Golden Sheaf nominee at the Yorkton Short Film & Video Festival, and is a current nominee at Kevin Spacey's Triggerstreet Online Film Festival." The documentary short explores the lives of James D. Jones and Joshua Key. Originally, Paul St. Armand thought he was making a documentary that would look at Vietnam war resisters in Canada three decades later. James D. Jones was one of the war resisters from that era he spoke with. Then the War Resisters Support Campaign hooked him up with Iraq War resister Joshua Key and St. Armand noted similarities in the two resisters stories. Key's story is also among those told in Michaelle Mason's documentary Breaking Ranks (where he states, "As we got down the Euphrates River and we took a shartp right turn, all we seen was heads and bodies. And American troops in the middle of them saying 'we lost it'.") and in the book he wrote with Lawrence Hill, The Deserter's Tale. From Key's book, page 176:

By our sins of willful neglect, we were about to have a child's blood on our hands. I knew it was wrong then, and now I know exactly what the Geneva Conventions say about the protection of women and children in war.
"Women shall be the object of special respect and shall be protected in particular against rape, forced prostitution, and any other form of indecent assault."
I knew how things were going to begin for that thirteen-year-old Iraqi girl, that day, but there was no telling how they would end. We had every means at our disposal to protect that girl. I say this because, in Iraq, sergeants and officers in my company generally behaved however they wanted in the presence of Iraqi civilians, employees, police officers, and border officials. In my opinion, it wouldn't have mattered in the slightest to my superiors what Iraqis throught of our actions. If one of our officers or sergeants had chosen to intervene and protect the girl, no Iraqi working at the border would have been in a position to stop him. We were the ones with the ultimate authority at the border. Indeed, one of our roles at al-Qa'im was to teach the Iraqi border officials and police officers how to inspect a car, and to tell them what we would allow Iraqis to take out of their country and what we prohibited as export items. We were the occupiers and we controlled the border, but when it came to the fate of the thirteen-year-old girl who was about to be raped, we did nothing.

Steve Woodhead (The Brock Press) reports on war resister Michael Espinal recent speaking event at Brock University at St. Catharines, Ontario. Espinal explains of one thing explains about his time in Iraq, "We were told to walk right past injured civilians, even children who were lying bleeding on the ground. I've seen soldiers take up to $20,000 U.S. from homes during house raids . . . Soldiers would go around in civilian cars we picked up at border checkpoints." Like many war resisters, Espinal had to go online to find information about war resistance.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key,
Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.

National Lawyers Guild's convention begins shortly: The Military Law Task Force and the Center on Conscience & War are sponsoring a Continuing Legal Education seminar -- Representing Conscientious Objectors in Habeas Corpus Proceedings -- as part of the National Lawyers Guild National Convention in Washington, D.C. The half-day seminar will be held on Thursday, November 1st, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the convention site, the Holiday Inn on the Hill in D.C. This is a must-attend seminar, with excelent speakers and a wealth of information. The seminar will be moderated by the Military Law Task Force's co-chair Kathleen Gilberd and scheduled speakers are NYC Bar Association's Committee on Military Affairs and Justice's Deborah Karpatkin, the Center on Conscience & War's J.E. McNeil, the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee's Peter Goldberger, Louis Font who has represented Camilo Mejia, Dr. Mary Hanna and others, and the Central Committee for Conscientious Objector's James Feldman. The fee is $60 for attorneys; $25 for non-profit attorneys, students and legal workers; and you can also enquire about scholarships or reduced fees. The convention itself will run from October 31st through November 4th and it's full circle on the 70th anniversary of NLG since they "began in Washington, D.C." where "the founding convention took place in the District at the height of the New Deal in 1937, Activist, progressive lawyers, tired of butting heads with the reactionary white male lawyers then comprising the American Bar Association, formed the nucleus of the Guild."

Turning to the topic of the mercenary company Blackwater, an
editorial from the Los Angeles Times notes today: "Congress should also begin investigating growing evidence of an overly cozy relationship between the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and Blackwater. It appears that the bureau hired the contractors, supervised their activities, allowed them to use deadly force, began to investigate the long-simmering allegations of excessive use of force only after the outcry over the September shootings, and then promised some contractors immunity without asking permission from the Justice Department. This behavior is more disturbing given reports that Blackwater has hired former State Department officials at high salaries, raising questions about whether the 'revolving door' presented a conflict of interest for investigators. Certainly Blackwater seems to have unwarranted influence in Washington, as evidenced by the letter it procured from the State Department ordering it not to disclose information to Waxman's committee. Who's in charge here, the U.S. government or Blackwater?" As questions continue to rise, John M. Broder and David Johnston (New York Times) inform that the Defense Department and not the State Department will now be in charge of oversight and quote US House Rep Jan Schakowsky stating, "It feels like they're [the State Department] protecting Blackwater." However, Noah Schatman (Wired) reports that the Department of Defense will not provide oversight because "The US Regional Cooperation Offices -- also called 'Reconstruction Operations Centers' -- are themselves outsourced, through a recently renewed $475 million contract to the British firm Aegis. And Aegis is run by the infamous old-school gun-for-hire, Tim Spicer." Which calls into question the noted by Peter Grier (Christian Science Monitor), made by Geoff Morrell -- Pentagon flack, that "the military, for its part, would now excercise some control over contractor training" -- a bit hard for the Pentagon to do if oversight has already been contracted out. Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) notes the limited-immunity the State Department offered Blackwater over the September 16th slaughter of Iraqi civilians in Baghdad and observes, "New details about the 'protections' given Blackwater contractors allegedly involved in the shootings sparked outrage from congressional Democrats yesterday, along with a flood of letters to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from committee chairmen demanding more information." Tim Harper (Toronto Star) observes of the immunity offered (with no input from anyone outside the State Department), "But legal experts said the state department move makes an already difficult prosecution even more difficult and keeps those who allegedly did the shooting in a legal zone which authorities may not be able to penetrate. Democrats accused the Bush administration of shielding potential killers and the chair of the powerful oversight committee gave U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice until Friday at noon to answer questions about the decision of her investigators." Of course, Rice isn't supposed to be in the US then. She's supposed to be in Turkey for a scheduled conference. Facing reporters in yesterday's State Dept briefing, Sean McCormack repeatedly fell back on a claim that he couldn't speak, "First of all, we have to draw a box around the specific events of September 16th and anything involved with that particular case." Other comments on the news emerging this week regarding the State Department and Blackwater included, "This is an area that I can't venture into."; "Again, I can't speak to the specifics of the September 16th case."; "In general, you have exhausted my legal knowledge concerning this case."; and "I'm just not going to have anything to say about the September 16th case." Even on something as general as the process of the incident reports that are supposed to be required whenever a contractor under the State Department fires a weapon in Iraq, McCormack stonewalled with comments such as "Let me just see if there's a standard procedure that I can talk about" and "I'll talk to the lawyers and see what we can do." Discussing the procedures on incident reports, on who sees them and the process itself does not require speaking to an attorney. Furthermore, in a democracy (open government), the process is not a secret. When Helen Thomas pressed White House flack Dana Perino on the immunity issue yesterday, Perino refused to expand on more than "Helen, as I said, it's a matter that's under review" and refused to state whether the Bully Boy had been briefed on the immunity deal the State Department offered.

As the tensions and fallout from the September 16th slaughter continues in Iraq, the puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki feels pressure to do something (his earlier public statements regarding Blackwater having since been clamped down on) so he has proposed a measure that would overturn Paul Bremer's Order 17 which granted immunity (from the Iraqi government) to contractors operating in Iraq.
Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reports the proposed bill "was written by" al-Maliki's legal adviser. Asked about that in the briefing yesterday, Sean McCormack was again evasive stating "Well, it's their law as I understand it -- unless I'm wrong here and that has been known to happen. . . . But as I understand it, they have the ability to changer their laws. Now, let's take a look at exactly what has been proposed and has yet to be debated in their legislature. But once we have a look at it and have a chance to analyze it, perhaps we'll have more to say about it." Left unstated is exactly why the State Department or the US should have anything to say about the allegedly independent nation-state Iraq. Meanwhile Christian Berthelsen and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) report that Iraqi eye witnesses to the slaughter say the FBI agents investigating "appear focused on whether anyone fired first on the American convoy and have been aggressively gathering ballistic evidence" and citing an unnamed "U.S. source" report that the team of investigators left Iraq Sunday.

Staying on the topic of crime, the US military has found a number of anthropologists who will betray their field. Earlier this month, the
BBC noted, "The Pentagon is pulling out all the stops in Iraq and Afghanistan" to recruit wayward academics to assist their Human Terrain System; however, "very frew anthropologists in the US are willing to wear a uniform and receive the mandatory weapons training." The article also notes the Network of Concerned Anthropologists an organization created to preven the betryal of the social science and the unethical use of the field to harm or destroy a people. One founding member of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists is David Price. In a well researched and documented article entitled "Pilfered Scholarship Devastates General Petraeus's Counterinsurgency Manual" (CounterPunch), Price walks readers through how even on something as basic as a monogram, those involved are applying no academic standards and he notes that Montgomery McFate appears to believe that merely stumbling across a passage written by another academic means she can claim it as her own -- word for word -- without credit or attribution. That's theft, plagiarism and shoddy scholarship. Monty is as she was -- forever and ever. Price also examines the press-love for Monty and writes, "In a recent exchange with Dr. McFate, Col. John Agoglia and Lt. Col. Edward Villacres on the Diane Rehm Show, I pressed McFate for an explanation of how voluntary ethical informed consent was produced in environments dominated by weapons. In response, McFate assured me that was not a problem because 'indigenous local people out in rural Afghanistan are smart, and they can draw a distinction between a lethal unit of the U.S. military and a non-lethal unit'." The Diane Rehm Show referred to was broadcast October 10th. In that broadcast, though Monty claimed the local population was able to discern, the New York Times' David Rohde was asked how clear the lines were by USA Today's Susan Page (filling in for Rehm) -- "does it seem transparent for them" when they meet with "Tracy":

David Rohde: Um, she was transparent with them. I don't think she gave her full name, I think she does identify herself as an anthropologist. I saw her briefly, but I don't know what she does at all times. She personally, um, actually chose to carry a weapon for security that's not a requirement for members of the team, I've been told. And she wore a military uniform which would make her appear to be a soldier, um, to Afghans that she wasn't actually speaking with.

Susan Page: And so you think Aghans knew that she wasn't a soldier even though she was wearing a military uniform and carrying a weapon? Or do you think that they just assumed that she probably was?

David Rohde: I would think that they assumed that she was.

That's the reality and, strangely, when Rohde was done speaking, Monty had nothing to add even though every false claim she'd offered in the roundtable had just been demolished. Price notes "a recent New York Times op-ed by Chicago anthropologist Richard Shweder indicates a stance of inaction from which the travesties of Human Terrain can be lightly critiqued while anthropologists are urged not to declare themselves as being 'counter-counterinsurgency'." that nonsense ran on A31 of last Saturday's Times and
mainly serves to update his November 2006 op-ed embarrassment where he gushed -- alleged anthropologist -- "The West is the best". The non-thinking person's anthropologist -- to anthropology what recipes on the back of a bag of Frito Lays are to fine cooking -- justified the program. While loose with the truth Monty and lost in stimulation Shweder attempt to put forth the lie that anthropologists are not being used for counter-insurgency measures (thereby assisting an occupying power by gathering information on a population -- information that will then be used against said population which is a clear betrayal of the field), Jacob Kipp, Lester Grau, Karl Prinslow and Don Smith, attempting to get the Happy Talk out on the program for the US military, wrote "The Human Terrain System: A CORDS for the 21st Century" for the September/October 2006 edition of Military Review and which not only makes clear that this is a counter-insurgency program but cites the CIvil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) as a model. CORDS was created under LBJ to "pacify" (destroy) the people studied. As Bryan Bender (Boston Globe) notes, CORDS "helped identify Vietnamese suspected as communists and Viet Cong collaborators; some were later assassinated by the United States." [Elaine addressed Price's article last night.] From Monty's crimes against humanity to some of today's reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing claimed 1 life and left 3 injured. Reuters notes a Tuz Khurmato roadside bombing that claimed the leife of 2 people (Iraqi soldier, police officer) and left another wounded.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a police officer shot dead in Kirkuk (two more wounded), while two children and a father were wounded in Kirkuk in a drive-by shooting and gunfire wounded a police officer in Babil. Reuters notes yet another attack on an official this time, in Kirkuk, on the chief judge of the court of appeals, Dhahir al-Bayati who was not killed but one guard was and another was left injured while, in Kirkuk, "an intelligence officer along with his wife and son" were injured in a drive-by shooting.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 corpses discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 8 corpses discoveredin Mosul. And CBS and AP note that Iraqi Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi announced today that 16 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.

Meanwhile tensions continue to escalate between Turkey and northern Iraq.
CNN reports that US planes are "flying over the Turkey-Iraq border to observe military movements" and quotes Pentagon flack Geoff Morrell stating, "We are assisting by supplying them, the Turks, with intelligence, lots of intelligence." Mark Bentley (Bloomberg News) informs that Condi Rice is supposed to "offer Turkey more intelligence on the location of of Kurdish fighters near the border with Iraq in order to avert a large-scale Turkish incursion" when she travels to Turkey for the conference. AP reminds that Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets with the Bully Boy in DC Monday. Suzan Fraser (AP) quotes Erdogan declaring that "it is now unavoidable that Turkey will have to go through a more intensive military process." AFP reports the Turkish military is stating it has killed 15 members of the PKK today and cites "press reports" that "possible sanctions against Iraq include restricting trade through the Habur border gate and uctting off electricity supplies to northern Iraq." While Turkey considers that, CBS and AP report, "Iraq will set up more checkpoints along its northern frontier to keep out supplies for Kurdish rebels". Meanwhile Steve Hargreaves (CNNMoney) reports that while the tensions and violence continues the price of oil per barrel hit a new record today: $94.53 per barrel.

Turning to US politics,
Perry Bacon Jr. (Washington Post) notes that Ralph Nader has declared he will make a decision about the 2008 race at the end of this year and quotes Nader stating of the two major parties (Democratic and Republican), "They are converging more and more. They are clearly more similar than they were 30 or 40 years ago." Nader's 2004 run was the subject of a discussion on Democracy Now! today between Amy Goodman and Carl Mayer who has filed a lawsuit against the Democratic Party:

AMY GOODMAN: Why are you suing?

CARL MAYER: To defend democracy. That's the title of the show -- excuse me, is Democracy Now! And this was the most massive anti-democratic campaign to eliminate a third-party candidate from the ballot in -- probably in recent American history. It is -- not content with having all these laws and statutes on the book that make it difficult for third-party and independent candidates to run, the Democratic Party and their allies in over fifty-three law firms, with over ninety lawyers, were engaged in filing litigation in eighteen states. They were to remove Ralph Nader from the ballot. It was an organized, abusive litigation process. The core of the lawsuit is that these lawyers, led by Toby Moffett and Elizabeth Holtzman, and something called the Ballot Project, which was a 527 organization, systematically went around the country and filed lawsuit after lawsuit, twenty-four in all, plus five FEC complaints, to try to completely remove the Nader campaign from the ballot and to, in effect, bankrupt the campaign, which they succeeded in doing. Not content with that, one of the defendants, Reed Smith, which is a large corporate law firm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, they are now going after Ralph Nader's personal bank account to make him pay some of the cost of this litigation.
And, understand, despite being outspent by the Democratic Party and its affiliated lawyers, the vast majority of these lawsuits were won by the Nader campaign, which was a largely volunteer effort. And these lawsuits were won across the country, despite this organized effort of intimidation and harassment. It's basically abusive process and malicious prosecution. Those are common law torts. And it was very clear from the beginning that the Democratic Party was using the legal system for an improper purpose. In fact, Toby Moffett, who's a former congressman from Connecticut, said directly to The Guardian of London in an interview in December of 2004, this wasn't about the law. "I'd be less than honest if I said" this was not about the law; this was about getting Ralph Nader off the ballot. And that's what this effort was about. And it's a shameful anti-democratic process by a party that claims to be a democratic party. And on top of that, the Democratic Party, or its allies, filed five FEC complaints against the campaign, alleging improper --

AMY GOODMAN: Federal Election Commission.

CARL MAYER: The Federal Election Commission -- alleging improper funding, improper finances, etc. They were all dismissed by the FEC.
Now, let me tell you how bad it got. There was an organized effort of harassment of petitioners who went around trying to collect signatures for the Nader campaign in Ohio, in Oregon and in Pennsylvania. In Ohio, for example, lawyers were hired to call up petitioners and tell them that if they didn't verify the signatures on the petition, they would be guilty of a felony. They were called at home by -- and they were, in many cases, visited by private investigators and told -- this is voter intimidation of the worst order. In the state of Oregon, for example, there was a nominating convention, and you need a thousand signatures at the convention. We have emails from Democratic Party operatives stating, we want our people to go to this convention and then refuse to sign the petition at the convention so Nader will not get enough signatures at the convention to get on the ballot. And they accomplished their goal in Oregon. After the convention, there's an alternative way of getting on the ballot, which is to collect signatures, and the Nader campaign went about doing that, and during the course of that there was further harassment and intimidation of petitioners by law firms, private investigators, calling up and threatening petitioners that they would be called before a court if they did not certify all the petitions.

For the record,
Ralph Nader is against the illegal war and calling for an immediate end to it unlike the three Democratic front runners. Last night the and others participated in a forum billed as a 'debate' but more of an embarassment.

Hillary Clinton demonstrated that even when attacked by two men (Barack Obama and John Edwards), a woman is up for the job. Whether she would be the president Americans want or not is another question. Like Obama and Edwards, Clinton refuses to pledge to end the illegal war if elected president (in 2008) by 2013.

Apparently having exhausted the alleged "rock star" charm and having no real ideas to offer voters,
Marz Barbabak and Peter Nicholas (Los Angeles Times) report, Barack now claims the really issue is that Clinton is reportedly "divisive" stating, "Part of the reason that Republicans, I think are, obsessed with you, Hillary, is because that's a fight they're very comfortable having." Considering that many Americans look back favorably on the 90s and that Bill Clinton won two presidential elections, Obama's attempted smear was ineffective. By contrast, John Edwards wanted to talk about his beliefs, CNN notes, for instance: "You know, I believe in Santa Claus. I believe in the tooth fairy." And candidates wonder why they aren't taken seriously? As Bill Richardson stated of the tag-team attacks on Clinton (note, neither man was up to the attacks before they could tag-team), "I think that Senators Obama and Edwards should concentrate on the issues and not on attacking Senator Clinton."

But where were the issues? Iraq was rendered nearly as invisible as
Mike Gravel who was not allowed to take part in the forum. Moderator Tim Russert attempted to further narrow the field by ridiculing Dennis Kucinich -- possibly because Kucinich actually has a plan to end the illegal war? "Now, did you see a UFO?" Many Americans have seen UFOs. UFOs are not flying saucers. Russert bungled his own big moment by failing to grasp that, as Kucinch pointed out, a UFO is "unidentified." Millions of Americans call in UFOs every year -- and will continue to. Apparently, if Americans saw strange planes flying along the eastern coast, Russert would prefer they not alert authorities? UFOs is what Russert offered. No substantial exchange on issues, just ha-ha UFOs. All Things Media Big and Small continue to ignore the very real issues at stake in the 2008 election. Last night may be the most extreme televised examples as one candidate felt the need to cite the tooth fairy while avoiding the realities most Americans are living with and a moderator thought he could better serve the public by offering up ha-has.