Friday, September 19, 2008

NOW on PBS, Dr. Violet Socks


How have women in politics changed America and the world? NOW on PBS investigates with an hour-long special hosted by Maria Hinojosa: "Women, Power and Politics: A Rising Tide?"
See the show on television this weekend or watch online STARTING SATURDAY[. . .]
Show Description: Given the hoopla surrounding Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton's historical political ascendance, why does the U.S. rank so low among countries for percentage of women holding national office?
On Friday, September 19 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), in a one-hour special, NOW's Maria Hinojosa talks to women leaders around the world and here in the United States for an intimate look at the high-stakes risks, triumphs, and setbacks for women leaders of today and tomorrow. Among these women are President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, the first woman leader in Latin America who did not have a husband precede her as President, and former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen, now in a tight race for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
We also travel to Rwanda, where, 14 years after a horrific massacre left nearly one million people dead, women make up nearly half of parliament; and to Manhattan, where ambitious high school girls are competing in a high-stakes debate tournament.
"Women, Power and Politics," is also about the personal journey of mother and award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa as she strives to answer the question: "What does to mean to be a woman in power?"
Watch a preview and excerpt of this special program at this web address:Use this directory tool to find out where the show is airing in your area:
The NOW website ... will feature web-exclusive commentary from noteworthy women including Maria Bartiromo, Sandra Cisneros, and Tina Brown; a personal essay from Maria Hinojosa; an interactive debate over Sarah Palin's candidacy; as well as opportunities for all women to post and share their stories of ambition, success, and discouragement.
(The "interactive debate" over Sarah Palin's candidacy is live now ...)

That was a great hour of television. If it has not yet aired in your area, make a point to catch the broadcast. Remember that it is available in full for streaming online beginning Saturday.

Staying on the topic of women, some of the people launching the worst (and most sexist) attacks on Govenor Sarah Palin are women. A woman, claiming to be a feminist, is attacking Sarah McCain for, in her opinion, representing a 'homecoming queen.' That's what you need to know for the excerpt below:

"When misogyny masquerades as feminism" (Dr. Violet Socks, Reclusive Leftist):
Then, in classic Third Wave form, she goes on to try to justify her rage on feminist grounds. Sarah Palin reminds her of the homecoming queen, you see, and…and…it's not that she's jealous, it’s that…uh…the homecoming queen is a tool of the patriarchy and…uh…therefore, as the embodiment of patriarchal toolishness, Sarah Palin is holding women down! Yeah, that’s it! Kill the bitch!
Of course none of these young women has any idea what
the real Sarah Palin is about. I suspect that even if you sat them down and read aloud the many pro-woman, thoroughly down-to-earth things Sarah Palin has said, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. If you tried to reason with them, it wouldn't matter. They can't hear. Their ears are buzzing from all the hate-blood in their heads. They've been trained all their lives to loathe other women, and now they can't help themselves.
Is it any surprise that this is the same generation that supported Barack "99 Problems But A Bitch Ain't One" Obama, the same generation that rejected Hillary Clinton as an irrelevant dinosaur? It was after Clinton's victory in the New Hampshire primary that another blogger at Jezebel
wrote simply, "Women suck."

It's really important that women don't contribute to the sexist attacks on other women. When we do, we're generally giving cover for all the men to hide behind. They point to us and say, "It's not sexist, ____ said it." I would love to have seen disagreement with Palin on issues.

But we never saw that, did we?

I can't figure it out if that's an indication of how weak-minded some of the Palin attackers are or if they're staying away from that terrain because lies that were easily told at the start of the month are now being called out. (For example, Palin has no problem with either sex-ed or birth control. That's not what the liars said at the start of the month, is it?)

I also think a question to ask is whether the attacks from women are the result of a desire to be invited into the Boy's Club. I can think of one 'name' third-waver who told Salon that she couldn't think of an example of sexism (in the media, online, anywhere) against Hillary. She really couldn't think of one example? Or she didn't want to lose her precious links? She knows to keep her mouth shut. It's how she became evry Boi Blogger's feminist link. She'll never question or call out. She'll just go along.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, September 19, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, a US air strike results in the deaths of Iraq civilians, the US State Dept gears up for a big push in Iraq, and more.

At the US State Dept today, deputy spokesperson Sean McCormack announced US Secretary of State Condi Rice was meeting with the Prime Minister and President of Kuwait "to talk about regional issues" and to "encourage the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Iraq and Kuwait." Asked about the status of the treaty between the US and Iraq (wrongly called a SOFA) McCormack fell back on, "I'm not going to talk about the substance of the negotiations. They continue. There have been a lot of ups and downs in these negotiations. But we still believe that we will be able to come to some agreement." US troops are currently legally covered by a United Nations mandate which expires at the end of the year. When that expires, if nothing is in place to replace it, as US Senator Joe Biden (also the Democratic vice presidential nominee) declared in a Senate session in April, then US troops would have to leave. McCormack was asked about instead of attempting a new agreement, attempting to yet again extend the UN mandate. McCormack dismissed the idea and stated, "The focus is still on getting an agreement between the United States and Iraq." McCormack stated that the State Dept's David M. Satterfield would be returning to Iraq ("leaving again Monday" for Iraq). Satterfield's title is Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State and Coordinator for Iraq.

While McCormack's trip will focus mainly on the treaty, it's part of a diplomatic push on the part of the State Dept in the final days of the current administration. Rice trip is part of that push. In recent weeks, Syria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have all appointed ambassadors to Iraq; however, only the UAE has stationed their Ambassador to Iraq in Baghdad. (The continued violence has prevented the other countries from doing so.)

The push comes as puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki makes noises against the treaty. As Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reported
yesterday and also on Wednesday (see Wednesday's "Iraq snapshot"), al-Maliki went on Iraqi TV Wednesday Steven Lee Myers and Sam Dagher (New York Times) discover the remarks today and report that al-Maliki declares the sticking point is over immunity for American troops in Iraq and that al-Maliki floated the idea of asking for an extension of the UN mandate declaring, "Even if we ask for an extension, then we will ask for it according to our terms and we will attach conditions and the U.S. side will refuse. U.S. forces would be without legal cover and will have no choice but to pull out from Iraq or stay and be in contravention of international law."

While al-Maliki raises that issue, one-time (and possibly current) CIA asset Ahmad Chalibi makes news. As one of the proponents (and liars) in the lead up to the illegal war, Chalabi continues to garner attention.
UPI reports that he declared to the Islamic Republic News Agency that the treaties being proposed between the US and Iraq are an attempt by the US to push permanent bases. He is quoted stating, "Within the framework of the security pact, the United States does not wish to merely have open military bases (in Iraq), rather secret military bases (there). If a security deal is not signed … by Dec. 31, regarding the recent U.S.-Russia row over Georgia and the Iraqi government's decision not to extend the U.S. forces' presence in Iraq for another year, the U.S. presence in Iraq will come across with difficulty in terms of the law."

Turning to the US Congress, Senators Hillary Clinton (Democrat) and John Ensign (Republican) are proposing a plan regarding Iraq's oil to the US State Dept.
Ben Lando (UPI) reports that the two senators are proposing that an oil trust fund be created for the Iraqi people and quotes an aide to Clinton explaining the proposal is similar to the Alaska model which "was 'inspiration for the idea of an oil trust' but that the State Department 'should develop a plan for Iraq so it fits Iraq's needs and provides several options'." Lando reports the State Dept's reaction: "The department said Iraqi leaders don't feel the time is right for such a trust fund, which demands too much from Iraq's fragile bureaucratic and financial systems." Lando adds that actions "continue to repair damage from storms in southern Iraq and a pipeline bomb in northern Iraq, bringing exports closer to the 1.9 million barrels per day averaged in August" and that an October 13th oil meeting will take place in London that "is expected to unveil the fields put to tender and the legal and technical specifics. The bidding for the fields is expected to be the first of many opportunities for international investment in Iraq's oil sector."

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (All Things Considered) reports on the move for Baghdad's puppet government to take control of "Awakening" Councils next month with "at least 20 percent of the militiamen [due to be brought into] into the state security forces and find civilian jobs for the rest" and the reaction to the Sunnis about that plan which has left them suspicious following the targeting of Sunni "Awakening" leaders by al-Maliki. "Awakening" leader Khalid Ibrahim declares, "They [the US] should have consulted us before taking any decisions so we could have given our opinion. Instead they have treated us like a commodity that can be moved at will from one place to another. . . . The aim is to get rid of us. Why? Because of the upcoming provincial elections and then national elections. They fear that we will get power." The provincial elections were due to take place this month; however, the inability to comes to terms with a basic agreement makes it unlikely that any elections will take place before year's end. The United Nations is working on a proposal which they hope to present either by the end of this month or the start of October.

Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a US air strike today which claimed mutliple lives in Al Dour. McClatchy's Leila Fadel explains that the deaths number at least eight "all from one family and including women," that the US military claims their helicopter only attacked 'terrorists' and that eye witnesses and Iraqi police disagree with the US military's statements including "Khaleel al Doori, a neighbor, [who] said his home was raided during the operation and that the American forces had used a loudspeaker to order people not to leave their homes. Doori said the U.S. troops shot a man and his wife." AP spends paragraph after paragraph parroting the US military's claims which is made all the more strange in paragraph seven: "U.S. airstrikes and conflicting claims about whether civilians have been killed have been common throughout more than five years of war as the Americans seek to minimize civilian casualties on the ground." Yes, they have repeatedly tried to minimize and fortunately for them AP joins them in minimzing today. AP quotes Sheik Faris al-Fadaam explaining the deceaded father (Hassan Ali) had been a Sunni police officer until the family had to leave Baghdad and that, "The family was very poor. The family came here and we helped them to rent that house. It was an extended family. They did not have any political affiliations. They did not engage in any hostile activity or have any connection with gunmen." Reuters does not give six opening paragraphs to the US military version of events, it gives one opening paragraph and then offers this: "A local Iraqi police officer put the death toll at eight. He said all were civilians from the same family and included three women. A helicopter air strike levelled the house at Dour, 140 km (85 miles) north of Baghdad, in Salahuddin province, he said."

Turning to some of today's other reported violence . . .


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded six people and a Mosul roadside bombing that wounded two people.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul home invasion in which both parents were killed and four other members of the family were wounded. Reuters notes 1 woman shot dead in Tuz Khurmato.

The number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war currently stands at
4168 with 17 for the month thus far. Since Thursday of last week, there have been 13 announced deaths.

Independent journalist
David Bacon latest book (just out this month) is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). Bacon also explores migration in "Displaced People: NAFTA's Most Important Product" (NACLA Reports):Since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993, the U.S. Congress has debated and passed several new bilateral trade agreements with Peru, Jordan and Chile, as well as the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Congressional debates over immigration policy have proceeded as though those trade agreements bore no relationship to the waves of displaced people migrating to the United States, looking for work. As Rufino Domínguez, former coordinator of the Indigenous Front of Binational Organizations (FIOB), points out, U.S. trade and immigration policy are part of a single system, and the negotiation of NAFTA was an important step in developing this system. "There are no jobs" in Mexico, he says, "and NAFTA drove the price of corn so low that it's not economically possible to plant a crop anymore. We come to the United States to work because there's no alternative."Economic crises provoked by NAFTA and other economic reforms are uprooting and displacing Mexicans in the country's most remote areas. While California farmworkers 20 and 30 years ago came from parts of Mexico with larger Spanish-speaking populations, migrants today increasingly come from indigenous communities in states like Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Guerrero. Domínguez says there are about 500,000 indigenous people from Oaxaca living in the United States, 300,000 in California alone.Meanwhile, a rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment has demonized those migrants, leading to measures to deny them jobs, rights, or any pretense of equality with people living in the communities around them. Solutions to these dilemmas-from adopting rational and humane immigration policies to reducing the fear and hostility toward migrants-must begin with an examination of the way U.S. policies have both produced migration and criminalized migrants.
Turning to public television. This weekend (Friday in most markets),
NOW on PBS will offer a look at women and politics:How have women in politics changed America and the world? NOW on PBS investigates with an hour-long special hosted by Maria Hinojosa: "Women, Power and Politics: A Rising Tide?"See the show on television this weekend or watch online STARTING SATURDAY[. . .]Show Description: Given the hoopla surrounding Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton's historical political ascendance, why does the U.S. rank so low among countries for percentage of women holding national office? On Friday, September 19 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), in a one-hour special, NOW's Maria Hinojosa talks to women leaders around the world and here in the United States for an intimate look at the high-stakes risks, triumphs, and setbacks for women leaders of today and tomorrow. Among these women are President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, the first woman leader in Latin America who did not have a husband precede her as President, and former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen, now in a tight race for a seat in the U.S. Senate.We also travel to Rwanda, where, 14 years after a horrific massacre left nearly one million people dead, women make up nearly half of parliament; and to Manhattan, where ambitious high school girls are competing in a high-stakes debate tournament."Women, Power and Politics," is also about the personal journey of mother and award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa as she strives to answer the question: "What does to mean to be a woman in power?"Watch a preview and excerpt of this special program at this web address:Use this directory tool to find out where the show is airing in your area:The NOW website ... will feature web-exclusive commentary from noteworthy women including Maria Bartiromo, Sandra Cisneros, and Tina Brown; a personal essay from Maria Hinojosa; an interactive debate over Sarah Palin's candidacy; as well as opportunities for all women to post and share their stories of ambition, success, and discouragement.(The "interactive debate" over Sarah Palin's candidacy is live now ...)Bill Moyers Journal (check your local listings, begins airing on PBS in most markets tonight, it also streams online -- transcript, video, audio) guests will inclue Gretchen Morgenson (New York Times) will be on to discuss the economic meltdown and Kevin Phillips (whose most recent book is Bad Money). PBS' Washington Week finds Gwen sharing opinions with David Wessel (Wall St. Journal), Charles Babington (AP) and John Maggs (National Journal) along with one other who desperately trolled the streets in an attempt to purchase an opinion from someone, anyone, so she didn't arrive empty handed.
(Babington was not booked this morning, the plan then was to have the bad writer for the NYT who also 'reports' for MSNBC on instead).

In the US presidential race,
Team Nader notes:

In the Public Interest Statement On Auto Industry Bailouts by Ralph Nader
The Big Three are in big trouble, and they have themselves to thank for it.
Ford and General Motors have reported substantial losses in the second quarter amounting to $15.5 billion, and $8.7 billion, respectively, while Chrysler, which was bought off last year by a private equity firm, Cerberus, refuses to reveal its financial standing.
It is no wonder why their lobbyists were spotted schmoozing with members of Congress at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, liquoring up in their plush suites and private parties while they made their case for direct government loans which, if approved, would likely add to our federal deficit.
Last December, Congress approved a $25 billion loan to automakers and their suppliers under the Energy Independence and Security Act, though it has yet to be funded. That bill includes a modest requirement for automakers to increase their average vehicle fuel efficiency to 35 mpg—a benchmark we should have set decades ago, and would allow the companies to have their way with virtually no oversight or accountability.
corporate Congress cannot be expected to issue serious demands, set tough conditions, or impose strict rules on the auto companies to ensure their workers receive fair pay and benefits, and prevent their fat-cat executives from making off big while leaving their companies in shambles.
Such blatant giveaways have become the norm in Washington since the corporate stranglehold of Congress and the White House have smothered the forces seeking worker, consumer and environmental justice.
But this recent example should not discount our long history of dealing with corporate failures in more public and effective ways than just ponying up billions on demand at any big corporation's whim.
In 1979 when Chrysler was on the verge of bankruptcy, the automaker came crying to Congress for a bailout, which they eventually got, but Congress wasn't as much of a pushover.
Back then, at least the corporate chieftains were grilled by Congress and had to agree to give something back for Uncle Sam bailing them out--good jobs and pensions for their workers, and more efficient cars to reduce reliance on foreign oil and reduce prices at the pump.
Now the CEOs don't even have to leave Detroit and they get much more money for almost no return commitment to America, while they outsource jobs and pollute our environment.
During discussion on a proposed loan bill to bailout Chrysler in October 1979, Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) who chaired the Senate Banking Committee issued his opposition to Chrysler;s request and noted: "We let 7,000 companies fail last year--we didn;t bail them out. Now we are being told that if a company is big enough… we can't let it go under." He went on to call the proposed deal "a terrible precedent."
Raising the government's demand for performance standards, President Carter's Treasury Secretary William Miller told Chrysler officials, "it's going to be so awful, you'll wish you never brought the whole thing up."
Today, we rarely hear such candid opposition to corporate orders shouted at their congressional servants who lack the fortitude to put serious restraints and conditions on mismanaged, reckless big business and their overpaid CEOs seeking tax-payer salvation.
As a part of the Chrysler deal in the late Seventies, the government took out preferred stock warrants and after the company turned itself around and repaid its loan seven years early, the government ended up cashing out, receiving $400 million in the appreciated stock.
And Congress made clear to Chrysler that it had specific conditions the company had to meet before receiving the loan guarantee. It forced the company to contribute $162,500,000 into an employee stock ownership trust fund geared to benefit at least 90 percent of its employees, design more fuel efficient autos to help reduce consumption of foreign oil, and prohibit wages and benefits from falling below a level set three months before the legislation was passed.
Today, congressional actions to grant multi-billion dollar loans to the corporations lack the reciprocity some in Congress demanded 30 years ago. Before Congress irresponsibly dips into the public piggy bank, this time it would be wise to look back at how the government once dealt with Chrysler's dilemma, require clear benchmarks to deliver on the next generation of green collar jobs, improved fuel efficiency and gain a substantial return on its investment, not just in monetary value, but in the long-term viability of the domestic motor vehicle fleet.
Congress needs to call on the auto industry to innovate their way out of this morass into which they've engineered themselves. A sensible strategy would be to issue stock warrants to the government, like in the 70s, which would create an incentive for Congress to keep pressure on the auto industry to improve.
Public Congressional hearings are a must.
Will Congress echo its actions of 30 years ago when it scrutinized corporate demands, grilled company executives, and imposed conditions to ensure fair compensation and safety for workers? Or will Congress continue down the road of corporate servitude, refusing to stand up for workers, consumers, taxpayers and the environment in its session-ending stampede and flight away from auto industry accountabilities?

the new york times
sam dagher
stephen farrell
the los angeles times
tina susman
mcclatchy newspapers
mohammed al dulaimy
leila fadel
ben lando
nprdavid baconnow on pbspbswashington week

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


"Keeping Hold of Your Vision--the Making of Hounddog" (Melissa Silverstein, WMC):
One of the dirty secrets of the film business is that it takes women directors a long time to get their films made. The Women, which opened recently, took Diane English 14 years to bring to the screen; other examples include Tamara Jenkins award-winning The Savages and Kimberly Peirce's Stop-Loss, which took 10 years each. Writer/director Deborah Kampmeier joins this illustrious club with her own decade long trek to see her film Hounddog starring Dakota Fanning finally released in theatres.
Hounddog, a small film with a budget under $4 million, doesn't seem controversial on the surface. But it seemed to raise a storm at every turn. Why? (Full disclosure--I am a consultant helping on the release of the film.)
Kampmeier wrote a film about a young, poor, motherless girl, abused physically, emotionally and sexually. The sexual abuse has created the biggest problem for Kampmeier, so much trouble that she thought it was going to land her in jail. When Dakota Fanning, an extremely popular child star who was looking for a more mature role, signed on, Kampmeier thought that raising the budget would come easy. But that wasn't the case. She was promised money from a variety of people on one condition--that she remove the rape scene. Kampmeier refused to compromise her vision. “I walked away from $5 million dollars over and over, literally, because I would not remove the rape scene. After Dakota came on board it was great to have her team telling investors that no one touches the script, no one takes the rape scene out.”

Ava called and asked me if I could grab the above. C.I. had just heard about the two US soldiers apparently shot by another US soldier in Iraq and was trying to work that into the snapshot and was pulling a section out that included this. Ava asked if I could grab it and, yes, of course.

What can I add? How about a male director can fail, a female one can't.

Gary Marshall is a good director and, I believe, much more talented than he's ever been given credit for. I think he does a number of visual things that strengthen a story that no one ever notices. (Take note of the use of windows for openings and closings of the soul in Frankie & Johnny.) But after Pretty Woman, Gary could have flops (like Exit to Eden) and other films that didn't do so well. Didn't matter. He could go ten years and keep directing. (Runaway Bride was another huge hit for him.)

It doesn't work like that for women. Look at his sister Penny. She's directed Big, A League of Their Own, Awakenings and one more that I'm forgetting but did well. She doesn't get the luxury of a decade of films that don't do well. Nora Ephron's career is iffy because it's been so long since You've Got Mail. Men really need only one hit film to get in the club and they can stay in it forever. It doesn't work that way for women. C.I. loves Katherine Bigelow, to use another example, and ask C.I. about what's been done to her over and over.

She has to work three times as hard as any male just to set up a project and then she has to work like crazy to get it to the filming stage.

Women just do not get the same opportunities.

C.I. has a great comparison of the current election with Barbra Streisand. Barbara should have been nominated for Yentl (I agree with C.I. on that) but wasn't. Then she does Prince of Tides which is a big money maker. There are so many amazing moments in it. Actors get nominations. (As Shirley MacLaine asked at the Oscars, did the film direct itself?) But Barbra's shut out. You may remember that a 'hip' and 'fresh' director got a nod that year, John Singleton.

Barbra went on to do an amazing job directing The Mirror Has Two Faces. Singleton's new film? The A-Team. I'm not a huge Barbra fan. She has a lovely voice, but if she's not doing torch songs, I can't listen because every song becomes an opera. I do like her as an actress, especially as a comedy actress. But I say that to explain that as talented as I think she is as an actress and as gifted a voice as she has, I think directing is her true skill. She's an amazing director and she's only directed three films. A man who showed half her skill would have had non-stop offers. Instead, Barbra's had to develop her own projects. There's no effort to throw things her way despite the fact that she's the only one who really can shape a film in the sense that we think of a film. I'm sure she could handle a popcorn feature, but to be able to take a serious subject and make you sit through it without complaining or feeling bored is a real skill that film makers seem to have lost. They add quirks and shocks. That's not me being prudish. I love Martin Scorse's films. But I'm also aware that when things lag, he goes for violence out of the blue. As gifted as he is, he has to resort to that over and over. Barbra's a director on the level of William Wyler and Billy Wilder. If she'd been directing in the fifties (and the fifties had appreciated women), she would have been one of the top directors.

"Saint Obama comes down to earth" (Victor Davis Hanson, San Francisco Chronicle):
Suddenly we are hearing constantly about sex and age in this campaign - and that also deflates St. Obama, who promised not just to be the better choice, but the better person. He once ran as a post-racial candidate, until Obama's past associates like the racist Rev. Jeremiah Wright cast doubt on that.
And why was Gov. Palin characterized by Obama as a mere small-town mayor - and by Biden as a "lieutenant governor," as well as "good looking" and, given her positions, "a step backward" for women?
The pro-Obama media don't help, sneering about what Palin wears, whether she spends enough time with her kids, and the minutiae of her husbands past conduct. The public certainly never hears about Biden's grooming, the amount of time he spent with his children when they were young, or his spouse's private life.
Now a trailing Obama wants to get tougher and go more negative - in part by raising doubts about McCain's age. Obama's clumsy reference to putting "lipstick on a pig" raised, rightly or wrongly, charges of sexism, and in the same manner his reference to a stinky "old fish" was connected with John McCain - who, Obama earlier scoffed, was "losing his bearings."

Mike asked me to note it. He said, "Yeah, he's a Hoover Institute fellow, but he's telling the truth." I get Mike's point. Back to film, we watched The Letter Monday night. Barbra could direct that and make it riveting. (It is a riveting film but done with a skill now absent in most films.)

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, September 17, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, we drop back to more from the budget hearing on Iraq, the US military announces more deaths, a US soldier is charged with killing two fellow soldiers, more US soldiers are charged in the deaths of Iraqis, and more.

Yesterday's snapshot noted the House Committee on the Budget's hearing on Iraq's Budget Surplus and since the hearing's gotten so little attention, we'll note some more of it. (Ironically, Katrina vanden Heuvel's insisting that it's time to 'get real' but to read anything at The Nation is to grasp Katrina's as ignored at The Nation as she is in the rest of the world. Katha Pollitt's 'getting real' about the issues by writing about . . . castrating bulls.) US House Rep John Spratt Jr. chairs the committee with Paul Ryan being the Ranking Member of the Republican Party. The first panel is our focus and that was when the committee heard testimony from the Government Accounting Office's Joseph A. Christoff. Spratt noted that while the US budget deficit was "expected to exceed $400 billion for the current fiscal year," Iraq is expected to see a huge budget surplus in the billions. Christoff explained that the estimate for Iraq's surplus this year is between $67 billion and $79 billion dollars. US House Rep Chet Edwards was noted yesterday and he highlighted the physical costs to the US (the lives of US service men and women), the financial cost, the predictions by then Dept. Sec of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in 2003 that Iraq would be paying "for its own reconstruction" and the new $3 billion dollar deal Iraq had just signed with the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation. US House Rep Lloyd Doggett was also noted yesterday and he wanted to focus on the failure of the benchmarks -- set by the White House. Christoff wanted to dicker with Doggett over this so Doggett used his time to go through as many as possible to illustrate that the benchmarks are not being met. He noted at the end, "And I see my time's up but, Mr. Chairman, we can keep going down the objectives that President Bush set himself for success, for victory, in Iraq and you'll find that it continues to fail, that this policy has been a failure. American tax payers are having to fund the failure while the Iraqis pay a fraction of the price we pay for a gallon of gasoline." Last night, Mike noted some of US House Rep James McGovern's testimony and we'll note some of the hearing beginning with McGovern.

James P. McGovern: And the government of Iraq, the Maliki government, I know that you didn't look at the issue of corruption, but it is corrupt. I wouldn't trust them to tell me the correct time. . . . And we're hearing people kind of rationalizing and explaining away why they don't need to spend their surplus, you know why we need to continue to shoulder the burden. Why would the Iraqi government want to change this sweet deal that they have with the US government? We are a cheap date in this whole matter. I mean we are giving and giving and giving and sacrificing and sacrificing and sacrificing and yet they have this incredible surplus. So what are the incentives and what should we be doing, what should this administration be doing, what should Congress be doing, to kind of force this issue? You have obviously talked to the people in the administration and people in the department. What is the plan? What is the plan to kind of, to transition, to kind of force the Iraqi government's hand, you know, to take more responsibility that we can get out, we can end our occupation, we can end our involvement here and stop sacrificing so much of our resources in this effort?

Joseph Christoff: Uhm, I don't know if I've seen a plan that would actually talk about transitioning so that the Iraqis begin spending more money. But I think you all have begun that debate within the Congress. As I mentioned before, when you passed a portion of the supplemental in June you had about $3 billion for what's called the Economic Support Fund. That was the first time that there was legislation that called for Iraq to have a dollar for dollar cost share for the small reconstruction projects that this ESF fund supports. I also know that in part of the NDA discussion there is discussion about also extending that type of cost-sharing to what we provide for the continued training and equipping of Iraq security forces. That area alone, we've appropriated -- you've appropriated -- $20 billion dollars.

James P. McGovern: Well I realize that's a step in the right direction but quite frankly it's kind of a modest -- less than modest -- step in the right direction. We've been doing this for years now, we've been involved in this war for many years. Nothing, absolutely nothing, about this war has turned out as advertised by the proponents of this war and it just seems to me that given the nature of the Iraqi government, given the problem of corruption in that government and given what I believe is an unwillingness to take more responsibility in light of the fact that they don't need to. I mean, again, we're spending $10 billion a month. Ten billion dollars a month in Iraq and they have these surpluses. I guess my frustration is that there isn't more frustration by those who -- proponents of this war to force the Iraqi government's hand to take more responsibility. But I appreciate your testimony. I think it's very helpful.

Next up was US House Rep Bob Etheridge.

Bob Etheridge: I guess as I look at that and think of the numbers and where we are, I happen to represent a lot of men and women at Fort Bragg and Pope [Air Force Base] who spent an awful lot of time oversees. At the same time, their children attend the public schools here in the United States and my question, I think, sort of fits in a little different area than what we've heard as you've mentioned we're spending about $10 billion a month of US revenues in Iraq and your report tells us that Iraqi government is not spending its own funds to maintain these reconstruction projects at a level they should. Actually only about 14% of the 28 that's allocated for security, water, oil, electricity, etc. And we have a myriad of spending needs here at home. I won't even go through the list, I just want to talk about one of them because we need to be building some school buildings in and around my district [second district of North Carolina] where we've got children in trailers and we've got one school that has 50% of our military children in buildings that ought to be able to have modern buildings. My question to you is what factors are keeping the Iraqis from taking more responsibility for its own reconstruction? And how can we address that problem or how should we address it?

Joseph Christoff: Well the factors that were cited in terms of their low expenditure rates for investment -- that's for reconstruction -- were the fact, again, that they have weak procurement budgeting, contracting procedures in place, they have low thresholds in terms of the approving authorities. They have to go the highest levels to get actually approving authority for the contracting. They have a brain drain in terms of the many technocrats that left the country that were responsible for many of these budgeting procurement issues. I've spoken with DoD advisors to the Iraqi Ministries of Defense and Interior. They have difficulties just teaching basic accounting and spreadsheet technology to some of the Iraqis. And also keep in mind, this is a cash-based economy. Things are done by cash. They have hand ledgers to keep track. There is not -- there is not an automated financial management sytem in place within Iraq.

Bob Etheridge: I think the thing that bothers me and I think a lot of folks who remember, you know the US tax payers have financed nearly $50 billion in Iraqi reconstruction in addition to all the other funds we've put in place and now we're spending about 10 billion a month and at the same time we see almost 80 billion in surplus. And then I'm reminded, and I think most folks are, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said in 2003 that the Iraqis could pay for reconstruction themselves and relatively soon. And I think we have a chart here, chart one, that shows that. Now it's quite obvious he was wrong or overstated or something because we pay twice. We've paid a 50 billion dollar reconstruction bill and now we're spending 10 billion a month and we're paying billions of dollar at the pump with gasoline. Is this a fair assessment? I mean, I just this weekend had people climb on my shoulders and I don't disagree with them. They are paying a ridiculous price for gasoline and at the same time in Iraq they're subsidizing their citizens and we're paying more for it over there to keep our troops in Iraq.

Joseph Christoff: Well I think in terms of the Secretary's original statement Iraq does have now the capabilities to begin financing its reconstruction. It didn't have it in the part of 2003 or 2004. When you're talking about paying at the pump . . . Now I mentioned the $1.18 per gallon but frankly that's the price in the region. That's what Kuwaitis pay, Saudis pay. So the IMF goal was to try to get them to raise their prices to at least the regional level and they have dramatically reduced their subsidies for gasoline, kerosene and diesel. Trying to give them a little bit of credit for their achievements.
Bob Etheridge: But my concern is that our troops aren't getting that benefit over there and we aren't getting it in terms of paying for it by the American citizens buying that fuel to help protect them.

Joseph Christoff: Yeah I think in fact that when we look at receipts where Iraq actually sold its oil about a third of the oil did come to the United States.

Etheridge's time was up and Moore went next.

Dennis Moore: Do you know the projected United States' deficit for this year?
Joseph Christoff: Well the latest CBO was approaching over $400 billion

Dennis Moore: So we are approaching, according to CBO projection, a $400 billion deficit as a nation to add to our 9.6 trillion debt now is that correct?

Joseph Christoff: Based upon what I read in the CBO projections that correct.

Dennis Moore: And Iraq has a projected surplus this year of $70 billion dollars?

Joseph Christoff: Up to $79 billion.

Dennis Moore: Up to $79 billion. What's wrong with this picture that we have a huge projected deficit, they have a good projected surplus and they're asking us basically to pay for reconstruction in Iraq? I guess I'm asking a rhetorical question because I think you've already answered that. What incentive, from your perspective, does the Iraqi government have to step up and assume responsibility for this if they've got us paying for everything right now? Not only money, but 4,000 American lives.

Joseph Christoff: Well I think that remains a concern in terms of how you incentivize the Iraqi government to begin spending of its own money. The incentives are also going to have to come on the part of the Iraqi people. They are still only getting about ten hours of electricity a day. They're still not getting potable water. Only a third of the children in Iraq have clean water even despite our reconstruction efforts. So there has to be some incentivizing on the part of the Iraqi people to demand more from their own government.

Dennis Moore: And the Iraqi people have to step up to the plate and support their own government, don't they?

Joseph Christoff: Mmm-hmm.

Dennis Moore: If anything's going to change here?

Joseph Christoff: Yes.

Dennis Moore: But they do have gasoline for $1.18 a gallon and we have gasoline for $3.50 a gallon in this country. Is that about right?

Joseph Christoff: I bet disiel cars pay a little bit more.

Dennis Moore: Good. Good. And so basically right now what we're doing -- and this is the last question I have -- we're just charging the reconstruction cost to our national charge card and passing the bill on to our children and grandchildren and future generations in this country, isn't that correct?

Joseph Christoff: Well we have spent -- you have appropriated $48 billion for reconstruction and stabilization

Dennis Moore: Yes sir.

Joseph Christoff: Of the big infrastructure projects are tapering off so the additional money you've been providing through the economic support fund is for smaller reconstruction projects. But we still have spent a chunk of change in trying to rebuild that country.

Tim Bishop went next and note that when Moore was saying "Good. Good." he was also attempting to shut off his cell phone which had begun ringing,

Tim Bishop: My understanding, the first Iraq War, total cost was about $61 billion. The net cost to the United States was about $2.1 billion. And the difference between gross cost and net cost was in some cases in-kind contributions from some of our coalition partners and in other case our coalition partners simply reimbursed us for monies that we laid out. Does that comport with your understanding?

Joseph Christoff: I don't know sir. I know we did reports back in 91 and 92 in which we saw that -- we actually made a bit of a profit on the last war?

Tim Bishop: I won't comment. What structural and/or legal impediments exist right now -- if any -- that would prevent Iraq from simply reimbursing us from their surplus for some portion of what we have already laid out?

Joseph Christoff: I don't know. I would have to look into that and perhaps get back to you for the record.
Tim Bishop: Does that not represent a reasonable course of action for this country? To try to recoup some of the enormous amounts that we have laid out while Iraq is sitting on this very substantial surplus?

Joseph Christoff: Sir, I would think that was a policy decision that I would reserve to the Congress because I don't think it's appropriate for GAO to comment.

Tim Bishop: Secondly, if I understand your summary correctly, Iraq has spent approximately $4.3 billion dollars over a three year period on its reconstruction and on provision of services, is that about right?

Joseph Christoff: The $4.3 billion dollars is for the four critical sectors that we looked at.

Tim Bishop: And we have spent about $42 billion?

Joseph Christoff: Well that's $42 billion in total for all of our reconstruction.

Tim Bishop: For reconstruction --

Joseph Christoff: Beyond those four sectors.

Tim Bishop: So if I've done my math correctly, $42 billion -- every dime of which has been borrowed -- the annual interst on that is about 2.2 billion dollars or there about, if I've done my math correctly. And Iraq is spending less than that on an annual basis for four critical areas so we're spending more on interest on the amount we've borrowed to rebuild their country than they are spending in total to rebuild their country on an annual basis?

Joseph Christoff: I'm from an accountability organization. I'd have to take your numbers and go back and check them.

Tim Bishop: Okay.

Joseph Christoff: Before I could comment on them.

Tim Bishop: These are back of the envelope numbers, I acknowledge but they appear to be consistent with what you have reported. One last thing. You and Ranking Member Ryan were engaged in a bit of a discussion about budget execution.

Joseph Christoff: Mmm-hmm.

Tim Bishop: To what extent do you believe that the decision to de-Baathify which deprived the Iraqi government of in effect a professional civil servant class, to what extent do you believe that decision has contributed to their inability to execute their budget plans?

Joseph Christoff: De-Baathi -- Were you going to interject?

That was said not to Rep Bishop who had the floor but to Republican Ranking Member Paul Ryan.

Paul Ryan: I just wanted to tack onto that because I think it's an excellent question. Mr. Bishop, do you mind if I just tack onto the end of that question?

Tim Bishop: No, I would just like to --

Paul Ryan: It's a good question! And the question is are any of these technocrats coming back now that the de-Baathifcation reforms have passed? I'd like to know if you'd track that as well.

Joseph Christoff: Sure. De-Baathifcation certainly was a factor in terms of the brain drain that has resulted in the lack of the kind of technocrats that Iraq needs for these ministry capacity -- for budgeting, procurement and contracting. Those type of Sunni technocrats are part of the over 2 million refugees in Syria and Jordan. The extent to which they're coming back, it's a very small amount. Ambassador Foley said two days ago that only about 16,000 of the 2 million refugees have actually returned to Iraq. I know I met some doctors when I was in Syria who wanted to return but they have no intentions of returning until they believe that the security situation is improved and they got a house.

Tim Bishop: One final question, you presided over the report that assessed performances on the benchmarks

Joseph Christoff: Yes, sir.

Tim Bishop: And one of those benchmarks was moving away from de-Baathification and restoring people to their jobs.

Joseph Christoff: Right.

Tim Bishop: In Mr. [Lawrence] Korb's [prepared] testimony [Korb would speak on the panel that followed], I don't know whether you've had the opportunity to see it, he makes the point that the current effort to address de-Baathification may well result in fewer Baath Party members working in the government under the new law than under the old law. To what extent did you address that point in your assessment of the benchmark?

Joseph Christoff: Two parts in answering that question. First of all, Iraq did pass a de-Baathification law which they passed in February.

Tim Bishop: The point of my question is what is the impact or ethicacy of that law?

Joseph Christoff: When we issued our progress report in June we had classified information that discussed that very issue that I could provide later for the record but I could not provide in an open session.
That's nearly the entire hearing. (First panel.) We can come back to it tomorrow and catch the rest of the Democrats if that's wanted. As for Iraqis supporting the puppet government, an
Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy provides (at Inside Iraq) a strong example of how the 'government' does not represent the Iraqi people, "Yesterday, a force from the Iraqi army came to my neighborhoods to evacuate the governmental flats where about 600 families live in. One of my neighbors tried to inquire about the evacuation order. He asked the army force 'why does the army implement the evacuation orders? This is not the duty of the army'. The question developed into an argument and the soldiers lost their mind because they didn't use to listen but they used to beat, fight and kill. They beat my neighbor violently to give a lesson to others to obey and execute only 'Execute and then discusses' Although this rule belongs to Baath Party but it is still valid, effective and basic rule for the new democratic regime in new Iraqi state. The army who attacked and killed Iraqis in north and south of Iraq during the nineties is still playing the same role in the new democratic Iraq. It is still the hand of the regime not the people protector. "

Robert F. Worth (New York Times) notes that Nawaf Fares is now Syria's ambassador to Iraq (Syria's first "since the early 1980s"). Now remember back in July when many in the press was telling that there was about to be a treaty between Iraq and the US (wrongly dubbed a "SOFA")? Still nothing. Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports that Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation, declared today "it was wrong to assume an agreement was imminent. He said the two sides were deadlocked over two Iraqi demands: that U.S. troops be tried by Iraqi courts under some circumstances, and that all U.S. forces leave Iraq by the end of 2011." US soldiers tried in Iraqi courts? BBC reports that Sgt John Hatley, Sgt 1st Class Joseph Mayo and Sgt Michael Lehy Jr. are charged with murdering four Iraqis ("blindfolded, shot and dumped in a canal in April 2007"). They will be tried in a US military hearing. CBC notes, "The killings are alleged to have been retribution for casualties suffered by U.S. forces." CBC also states that four more are being held and are under investigation (with two of the four US soldiers having been charged). AP, however, says the four additional soldiers "have already been charged with conspiracy in the case." Meanwhile, AP reports that Staff Sgt. Darris J. Dawson and Sgt. Wesley R. Durbin's deaths on Sunday in Iraq are under investigation and a US soldier "has been taken into custody" due to the deaths. Troy Moon (Pensacola News Journal) reports that Dawson was "a father of four" and a graduate of Escambia High and quotes his stepmother Maxine Mathis stating, "It's bad enough he had to fear the enemy. But he had to fear a fellow soldier. This is senseless. Not only did (the alleged shooter) take our son's life, he took another man's life as well. It's just horrible. I want people to know what happened.'' Chris Vaughn (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) reports that Durbin was from Dallas and "an honor student and 2001 gradute of Dallas Luterhan School. He volunteered in the Civil Air Patrol in high school, then joined the Marines. After he left the Marine Corps, he joined the Army two years ago."

Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian of London) reports that Amnesty International is calling attention to the flooding of arms into Iraq: "There is no clear accountable audit trail for some 360,000 small arms supplied to the Iraqi security forces, many by the US and UK, it says. Subcontracting makes the arms trade even less transparent. Among examples cited by Amnesty are the supply of 63,800 Kalashnikov assault rifles from Bosnia to Iraq and the dispatch via the UK of thousands of Italian Beretta pistols, many of which ended up in the hands of al-Qaida insurgents in Iraq." Meanwhile IRIN reports over 100 cases of cholera are now confirmed in Iraq.

Today's violence . . .


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded three people, another Baghdad roadside bombing wounded six people, a third Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left two more people wounded, two Baghdad car bombings claimed 8 lives with twenty-five people wounded, a Baghdad mortar attack wounded seven people, a Baiji car bombing that left four people wounded, a Mosul roadside bombing left two police officers wounded, a Tal Afar roadside bombing that left three Iraqi soldiers injured and (dropping back to Tuesday for all bombings that follow) 3 Mosul roadside bombing that wounded seven and a Ramadi car bombing that claimed the life of Abu Seif ("Awakening" Council leader).


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad shooting that claimed 2 lives and left two people wounded, Shamil Yunis (dept governor of Mosul) was assassinated in Mosul, an attack on a bus outside of Kirkuk claimed 3 lives and left four people wounded.


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

Since Sunday, when two US service members were announced dead there have been at least two more deaths registering as of this morning. M-NF, tasked with announcing deaths, did not announce them. The Defense Department's job is to announce names after the families have been informed. 4159 was this morning's total of US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. That total has risen during the day. This afternoon, the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldier died of a non-battle related cause Sept. 17." And they announced: "A Multi-National Corps -- Iraq Soldier died of a non-battle related causes Sept. 17." 4161 is the current total of US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.

Quote of the day
goes to Riverdaughter (The Confluence), "And remember, 'We are the ones no one expected'." Which takes us into the US presidential race. Matt Lira ( advises, "Today the McCain-Palin campaign announced the endorsement of Lynn Forester de Rothschild, a prominent Hillary Clinton supporter and member of the Democratic National Committee's Platform Committee." de Rothschild is quoted stating, "In an election as important as this, we must choose the candidate who has a proven record of bipartisanship and reforming government, and that's John McCain," Rothschild said. "We can't afford a president who lacks experience and judgment and has never crossed party lines to work for meaningful reform. Amid tough economic times and foreign policy concerns, we need someone who is ready to lead. Although I am a Democrat, I recognize that it's more important to put country ahead of party and that's why I support John McCain." Meanwhile Howard Kurtz (Washington Post) notes a new study conducted by the Wisconsin Advertising Project which finds the Obama campaign "aired more negative advertising last week than did" the McCain camapign and quotes the study's director, Ken Goldstein, stating, "It suggests that the Sarah Palin pick and the newfound aggressiveness by McCain got into Obama's head a little bit. He was under great pressure to show some spine, be aggressive, fire back." Peter Overby (NPR's Morning Edition) reports on Barack and McCain's remarks about Wall Street and Overby notes, "But just as Wall Street is known as the financial capital of the country, it's also known -- by presidential hopefuls -- as the single best place to go for campaign cash.
Obama has raised $10 million from the men and women of Wall Street. McCain's take is somewhat less: about $7 million." Governor Sarah Palin is McCain's running mate and the object of non-stop sexism.
Marie Cocco (Washington Post Writers Group) addresses some of it in her latest column:

This has a lot to do with a graphic image of Palin I just saw in which she is dressed in a black bustier, adorned with long, black gloves and wielding a whip. The image appeared in the Internet magazine Salon to illustrate a column titled: "The dominatrix," by Gary Kamiya. Kamiya calls Palin a "pinup queen," and says she not only tantalized the Republican National Convention with political red meat, but that her "babalicious" presence hypercharged the place with sexual energy, and naughty energy at that. "You could practically feel the crowd getting a collective woody as Palin bent Obama and the Democrats over, shoved a leather gag in their mouths and flogged them as un-American wimps, appeasers and losers."That's some sexual mother lode. Dare I point out that I have never -- ever -- in three decades of covering politics seen a male politician's style, even one with an earthy demeanor, described this way?Salon editor Joan Walsh says she agrees the "dominatrix" piece had a "provocative cover,'' and that her columnists enjoy great freedom. "One day Gary (Kamiya) called Palin a dominatrix, the next day Camille Paglia called her a feminist." The magazine exists, Walsh says, to "push the envelope."No sooner did Walsh give me this explanation than another Salon contributor, Cintra Wilson, pushed that envelope again. Wilson described Palin as follows: an "f---able ... Christian Stepford wife in a 'sexy librarian' costume" who is, for ideological Republicans, a "hardcore pornographic centerfold spread." That is, when Palin is not coming across as one of those "cutthroat Texas cheerleader stage moms."What is it about a woman candidate that sends the media into weird Freudian frenzies?

Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate.
Team Nader notes:

Donate $17 to Nader/Gonzalez.
It's September 17, 2008.
Constitution Day.
And we're really close to meeting our fundraising goal of $80,000 by midnight tonight.
Last we looked, we were just under $70,000.
So, let's crank it up.
And get it done now.
And to honor the day the Constitution was signed, we have a five question Constitution Day civics quiz for you.
Which candidate opposed the snoop enabling FISA law and the immunity bailout for the telecom companies -- Obama, McCain or Nader?
Which candidate called for the impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney for all of their crimes from the illegal war in Iraq to illegal wiretapping of unsuspecting Americas -- Obama, McCain or Nader?
Which candidate opposed passage of the Patriot Act and calls for its repeal -- Obama, McCain or Nader?
Which candidate opposes the death penalty -- Obama, McCain or Nader?
Which candidate would work to repeal corporate personhood --- and shift the power from the corporations back into the hands of the people -- Obama, McCain or Nader?
The answers -- Nader, Nader, Nader, Nader and Nader.
The Constitution is under siege.
And Ralph Nader is its defender-in-chief.
To honor Nader and his courageous defense of the Constitution, let's push Nader/Gonzalez over the top today.
Again, we're only $10,000 away from meeting our goal.
We need 600 of you -- our loyal supporters -- to give $17 each.
And we'll make it.
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If you
give $100 or more now, we will send you In Pursuit of Justice, the 520-page book of essays by Ralph Nader -- essays on corporate power, the Constitution, and transforming our country. If you donate $100 now, we will send you this historic collection -- autographed by the man himself -- Ralph Nader. (This offer ends at 11:59 p.m. tonight.)
So, keep your eye on the widget as we climb toward $80,000.
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Onward toward a momentous November.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Arms warning from Amnesty

"US and UK failing to monitor flood of arms into Iraq, Amnesty warns" (Richard Norton-Taylor, Guardian of London):
Iraq is being flooded with weapons despite human rights violations by all parties in the conflict there, and without any proper monitoring by the US and Britain over where the weapons end up, Amnesty International says today.
There is no clear accountable audit trail for some 360,000 small arms supplied to the Iraqi security forces, many by the US and UK, it says. Subcontracting makes the arms trade even less transparent. Among examples cited by Amnesty are the supply of 63,800 Kalashnikov assault rifles from Bosnia to Iraq and the dispatch via the UK of thousands of Italian Beretta pistols, many of which ended up in the hands of al-Qaida insurgents in Iraq.
"The easy availability of small arms and lack of accountability in Iraq has contributed to sectarian killings by armed groups, as well as torture and other ill-treatment; extra-judicial executions by Iraqi government forces and the continuing arbitrary detention of thousands of suspects by Iraqi soldiers backed by US armed forces since 2003," says Amnesty.

C.I. passed that on. There wasn't room for it in the snapshot today. Richard Norton-Taylor is one of the rare people worth highlighting at that 'paper.'

E-mails came in asking if I caught Tariq Ali on Democracy Now! and the answer was, not until I heard about it in the e-mails. What to make of it?

Everything he said was said here after Saint Bhutto's death. Why he couldn't say it when it actually mattered, I have no idea. I like Tariq. I wish he'd spoken out like he did today back then, when it actually mattered and might have made a difference.

My view has been consistent. What I said then, I believe today. I didn't change because of tears over Saint Bhutto. No tears should have been shed but if people chose to hold their tongues out of 'respect' or fear of the dead, my response would be, the Pakistani people are not dead.

By that I mean, her husband's installation could have been stopped. It could have been prevented. If all who knew better had spoken out when it actually mattered.

I'll also grab this topic.

"Obama camp hits back at Iraq double-talk claim" (AFP):
Barack Obama's White House campaign angrily denied Monday a report that he had secretly urged the Iraqis to postpone a deal to withdraw US troops until after November's election.
In the New York Post, conservative Iranian-born columnist Amir Taheri quoted Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari as saying the Democrat made the demand when he visited Baghdad in July, while publicly demanding an early withdrawal.
"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview, according to Taheri.

Big mistake by Barack. That story broke yesterday morning. C.I. ignored it and advised us to as well. Not just because it was the New York Post but because of the author of the article. On some writers at that paper, it would have been justified in highlighting in a 'maybe it's true' manner. On that reporter, no point in it due to his track record. So C.I. was ignoring it and, remember, C.I. grew up in a press family. I did look last night to see if any reputable outlets were touching it and they weren't. Now AFP is. Why?

Because Barack issued a denial. By issuing a denial, it can now be covered. The hestiation C.I. had was probably shared by many. (I'm not comparing C.I. to the press. C.I. isn't the press and will say so herself. I am noting C.I. grew up in a newspaper family and her grandfather, a publisher, would hold court at every meal and most of the family worked for the paper. So it would be press quizes passed off as dinner conversation. That's a little harsh and I don't mean it that way. How about, 'It was always shop talk.') If Barack had just ignored it, it would have died a death. By issuing a statement, he's now given it legs and legitmacy because people who were avoiding it can now cover it thanks to his denial.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, September 16, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the Congress discussed the spending in Iraq, NOW PAC made an endorsement but even Kim Gandy unwisely keeps insisting NOW made the endorsement, and more.

Today the House Committee on the Budget held a hearing on Iraq's Budget Surplus. Some background.
April 8th the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Gen David Petraeus offered testimony. Senator Barbara Boxer raised the issue of the "Awakening" Council and how "you are asking us for millions more to pay off the militias and, by the way, I have an article here that says Maliki recently told a London paper that he was concerned about half of them". Boxer noted that the US was spending $182 million each year ($18 million a month) to "Awakening" Council members and "why don't we ask the Iraqis to pay the entire cost of that program"? As Sam Dagher (New York Times) noted Monday, the puppet government in Baghdad "is expected" to take over payment on October 1st. Iraq has yet another outbreak of cholera currently. Friday a press conference was held in Baghdad that offered blame for everyone but the Iraqi government which sits on billions that Nouri al-Maliki refuses to spend on reconstruction or rebuilding. This at a time when trash piles up, when electricity continues to be largely unavailable and when fuel costs soar. Monday Mohammed Abbas (Reuters) reported that the puppet government was stating, via spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh, that "we are in a position now not to ask for financial aid from anybody, even the United States. I think we have enough money to spend and we are not in need of any money in the future."

US House Rep John Spratt Jr. chairs the Budget Committee (Paul Ryan is the Ranking Member of the Republican Party). Appearing before the committee were (first panel) the GAO's Joseph A. Christoff, (second panel) Congressional Research Service's Christopher M. Blanchard, AEI's Frederick Kagan and the Center for American Progress' Lawrence J. Korb. We'll focus on some of the first panel only.

Spratt called the hearing to order and noted:

This hearing will be the first opportunity for the Congress to receive testimony on this report, the GAO report, since the Government Accountability Office released it several weeks ago. GAO reports that Iraq is now running a substantial budget surplus -- it may reach $79 billion. At the same time the CBO [Congressional Budget Office] reported last week that in contrast to Iraq's growing surplus, the budget deficit for the United States. is expected to exceed $400 billion for the current fiscal year. That's the second largest deficit in our history. Even bigger deficits are projected next year. This hearing will give the Budget Committee the chance to develop some insight into Iraq's fiscal situation and its ability to help pay for its own reconstruction. So far the United States has provided more than $650 billion dollars for efforts in Iraq, $50 billion of which were for reconstruction and security forces training. We're spending today at the rate of more than $10 billion a month which is by anybody's calculus a significant sum of money. Given our budget deficits here at home, some find it difficult to understand why American tax payers are still funding Iraqi reconstruction and security training. In funding the Gulf War, the first President Bush was able to secure much critical sharing from allies which greatly reduced the bill that the tax payers ultimately had to pay. Let me say at the outset that this hearing is not a debate on the war, not a debate on the surge or plans for redeploying any troops we may have. In fact, even the strictly budgetary issue of the total cost of the war -- military and reconstruction -- is larger than today's topic. We invited the Department of Defense to address a broader budgetary issue in our hearing this fall. They declined to appear. Thus today's hearing is called to examine the issue of the Iraqi budget surplus. We on the Budget Committee want to asses for the purpose of projecting the bottom line whether the burden of Iraq's reconstruction can finally begin to shift from the United States to Iraq itself given the surplus they're currently enjoying.

Following the ranking Republican speaking, a cry of "End the occupation by defunding the occupation!" was chanted by one woman. "You gonna call 'em?" asked Ryan leading Spratt to bang the gavel and declare to the woman, "I'm sorry you're out of order and you'll be removed from the room if you persist in doing what you're doing." Ryan chuckled at that.

"Iraq has an estimated 115 billion barrels of crude oil reserves," declared Christoff at the start of his testimony. "It's the third largest in the world. And oil revenues are critical to Iraq's economy accounting for over half of the country's GDP [Gross Domestic Product] and over 90% of its revenues. My statement today is based on the report we issued last month on Iraq's revenues, expenditures and surpluses from 2005 to 2008."

Christoff then reviewed some findings. From 2005 to 2007, $96 billion was generated in revenues (oil accounting for more than 90% of that money) and in 2008 $73 to $86 billion is the estimate for revenues "nearly as much as it generated in the prior three years." By contrast, 2005 to 2007 saw the puppet government spent "$67 billion on operating expenses and investments. Operating expenses such as salaries and goods and services consumed 90% of that total. The remaining 10% was spent on investments such as structures and vehicles. In general, Iraq has spent less on investments than operating expenses." Christoff estimates the surplus will be between $67 billion and $79 billion for this year. He noted the claim that this would all be spent and how "a similar claim" was made from 2005 to 2007 but that never happened and instead "ended each of these years with budget surpluses."

John Spratt: If the will was there they could be spending it at a faster rate than they are?

Joseph Christoff: Well they can spend it on their operating budget with no difficulties. They spent a large percent -- almost 80 percent -- on their operating budget. They can pay salaries. They can buy certain operating goods and services but when it comes to the actual investment side to reconsruct bridges, roads, electricity and water facilities they fall short.

During his time, US House Rep Chet Edwards asked that Paul Wolfowitz ' statements be put up from 2003 when he was then Deputy Secretary of Defense and testified to the House Appropriations Subcommittee (March 27, 2003): "We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon."

Chet Edwards: Given the GAO report, I guess I rank that administration prediction right up there with some of the predictions that we would be greeted as liberators, the war would be short-lived, it would cost the American tax payers less than a hundred billion dollars and we're turning the corner. We've turned so many corners in Iraq I think we're all dizzy from that. Every time we turn one corner we find another roadbloc down the way. I would like to ask you, just again, to get the facts on the table, in fact, let me ask staff to put up the chart on how much Iraq has spent and how much less it has spent than the US. I just want to verify, Mr. Christoff, that according to this chart, the United States tax payers that are now facing historic deficits of over $400 billion this coming year, US tax payers have spent $23.2 billion on Iraq reconstruction. Is that correct, Mr. Christoff?

Joseph Christoff: That's for four sectors that we looked at.

Chet Edwards: Okay.

Joseph Christoff: Security, oil, electricity and water.

Chet Edwards: Okay. So reconstruction in those four sectors. And the Iraqi government which I think now has an approximately $79 billion surplus has spent only $4.3 billion. Is that fact --

Joseph Christoff: That's correct.

Chet Edwards: -- correct?

Joseph Christoff: Yes.

Chet Edwards: So the US tax payers -- in addition to something you can't put a dollar value on, we've sacrificed over 4,000 of our young men and women in combat there -- we've then also spent five times what the Iraqis have spent on reconstruction despite Secretary Wolfowitz' prediction that Iraq would very quickly be able to pay for its own reconstruction. Let me ask you about this. Am I correct in understanding from your report that the same Iraq for which we have sacrificed over 4,000 American lives has just signed a $3 billion agreement with the Communist Chinese National Petroleum Corporation to develop the Ahdab oil field, is that correct?

Joseph Christoff: I don't have any first-hand information on it, sir. It's just what I've read in the paper as perhaps you have as well.

Chet Edwards: Okay. Well for the record, I think that is, Mr. Chairman, correct. The Iraqi government, the same one that's building up a $79 billion surplus while American tax payers are paying for most of their reconstruction efforts has just signed a $3 billion agreement with the Communist Chinese National Petroleum Corporation. And Mr. Chairman, it just boggles my mind to think that there would be any evidence that the Communist Chinese ability to develop oil fields is better than US corporations ability to do so. So once again, we turn a corner and we're hit in the face with something I consider to be insulting.

Edwards is correct re: CNP's contract.
August 29th snapshot: "Meanwhile, China scores big! Erica Goode and Riyadh Mohammed (New York Times) announce that China National Petroleum signed a contract with the puppet government in Baghdad. With the DNC speeches this week repeatedly hitting on the borrowing from China, that will probably not go over well in this country." Sept 3rd snapshot: " Eric Watkins (Oil & Gas Journal) states the oil contract to China National Petroleum Co (CNPC) has been approved by the Iraqi Oil Ministry today. Today's Azzaman sees an exclusion of the US from the oil deals and insists this is due to pressure from Iran. David Berman (Globe & Mail) dismisses 'the concern about China cornering Iraqi oil, it's nonsense'. BBC via redOrbit documents the press conference in Baghdad today, presided over by Husayn al-Shahrastani."

US House Rep Lloyd Doggett was among the other Democrats asking questions and we'll note this exchange.
Lloyd Doggett: Do I understand from your testimony to Mr. Edwards a moment ago that a time when we were squandering our money and the Iraqis were saving their's that Iraqi citizens were paying about four cents a gallon for gasoline?

Joseph Christoff: Two years ago that's correct.

Lloyd Doggett: It's risen some since then?

Joseph Christoff: It's up to about $1.18 per gallon.

Lloyd Doggett: I think there are probably a lot of Americans who are paying for this so-called reconstruction in Iraq that would be mighty glad if they could get $1.18 gasoline. Did you play a role in the analysis of the benchmarks that the Government Accountability Office provided last year?

Joseph Christoff: Yes, sir.

Lloyd Doggett: What was that role?

Joseph Christoff: I was the director in charge of that report.

Lloyd Doggett: And have you also played the same role in responding to questions about the benchmarks from [House Armed Services Committee] Chairman [Ike] Skelton this year with the report that you just did in the last few weeks?

Joseph Christoff: Yes, I was the director on the progress report as well.

Lloyd Dogget: All of us remember, except maybe President Bush, that in January of 2007, he selected the benchmarks, the guidelines by which to measure success, by which to measure victory in Iraq and when we sought an analysis so we would have an objective information instead of just the propaganda from the administration about whether those benchmarks had been met the Congress turned to the Government Accountability Office. And my recollection is that when you came out with your report on August the 30th of last year that you determined that . . . 11 of the 18 benchmarks that President Bush had set were not met. Is that correct?

Joseph Christoff: Based on that prior report correct.

Lloyd Doggett: Yes, sir. And you found that of the 18 benchmarks the president set himself to measure success in Iraq that only three had been met as of August 30, 2007. Now this year, a year later, you did some evaluation again. You did not evaluate every single benchmark but you really found that there had been very little progress in the year. We know that fortunately fewer Americans are being killed there. But in terms of the objective of the Bush policy in Iraq, you had a grand amount of success in that they met one more benchmark than they had the year before, isn't that correct?

Joseph Christoff: Well we didn't go through a benchmark by benchmark analysis but we did provide a report that talked about progess on the security front, the legislative front and the economic front in our June report.

Lloyd Doggett: Right and I believe you found one more benchmark met than the year before.

Joseph Christoff: Again we didn't do a benchmark by benchmark analysis, sir.

Lloyd Doggett: Well if you look at the -- it may not have been called a benchmark analysis -- but you looked at some of the same factors you had the year before. Just to begin to go through them, on the Constitutional Review Committee, you found that they'd formed the committee but the committee hadn't done anything. Right?

Joseph Christoff: And that's still true.

Lloyd Doggett: Well they hadn't met that. On enacting and implementing legislation on de-Baathification you found that they had enacted the legislation but they hadn't implemented and of it, right?

Joseph Christoff: That's correct.

Lloyd Doggett: Well they hadn't met the second benchmark. On the question of enacting the hydrocarbon or oil legislation, you concluded that they had not met that again this year, did you not?

Joseph Christoff: Correct, and no progess this year either.

Lloyd Doggett: On enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions -- that was the fourth benchmark President Bush had -- you found that that was only partially met. Again they passed a law to allow the provinces to act but it hadn't been implemented.

Joseph Christoff: Well on that one it will be implemented when provinces come together to form regions so that's an open --

Lloyd Doggett: Right, but we're not there yet.

Joseph Christoff: Well no provinces have voted to form regions other than the KRG originally.

Lloyd Doggett: On enacting and implementing legislation for an Independent High Electoral Commission you found only partially meeting it. Again, they passed a law but hadn't implemented it.

Joseph Christoff: The commission was established. The provincial election law -- the date was established for October 1 but the implementing laws have not been enacted.

Lloyd Doggett: Right. And they won't have the elections they've been promising us they'd have for a year in October.

Joseph Christoff: October 1, they will not meet that date.

Lloyd Doggett: On the enacting and implementing legislation for a strong militia disarmament program --

Joseph Christoff: That's not met.

Lloyd Doggett: That's not met. And I see my time's up but, Mr. Chairman, we can keep going down the objectives that President Bush set himself for success, for victory in Iraq, and you'll find that it continues to fail. That this policy has been a failure, American tax payers are having to fund the failure while the Iraqis pay a fraction of the price we pay for a gallon of gasoline. Thank you.

In Iraq today,
Robert H. Reid (AP) reports that the handover from Petraeus to Gen Ray Odierno took place, "With Defense Secretary Robert Gates presiding at the ceremony in a cavernous rotunda of a former Saddam Hussein palace outside Baghdad, Petraeus handed over the flag of his command, known as Multi-National Force Iraq, to Odierno and then bade farewell." Thom Shanker and Stephen Farrell (New York Times, A13) report that Monday's hijinx included a Gates' 'joke' that US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Gen David Petraeus have alternated playing "good cop, bad cop" in Iraq. The reporters fail to inform how many (if any) Iraqis laughed at the 'joke.' Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports one Odierno change already -- he wants to be called "Ray" and not "Raymond". Susman also notes, "Odierno gained a star but lost a syllable in his first name. He was promoted to a full four-star general moments before the event took place. No reason was given for the change in his preferred first name, which must have happened suddenly. The press packet provided to the media included a biography of Odierno that introduced him as Gen. Raymond Odierno." A dust storm hit Iraq, she reports, for the second day in a row. Some of today's violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing that claimed 2 lives with thirteen left wounded and a Baghdad roadside bombing that left eight people wounded. Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 police officers and injured seven people.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Sheikh Omar Raddam Getan was assassinated today in Diyala Province.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.

Today NOW PAC (not NOW as ABC and others are reporting -- the National Organization for Women CANNOT endorse, it's a violation of their tax status) endorsed the Obama-Biden ticket and
Kim Gandy (NOW president) explains in several paragraph: 'Lesbians, go screw yourself.' There's no other way to put it after Barack's use of homophobia in South Carolina to scare up votes which NOW (or NOW PAC) never bothered to call out. For years The Ego of Us All tried to chase lesbians out of NOW and Kim Gandy's apparently decided to follow in Red Betty's footsteps. Lesbians really don't have abortions. The main reason would be rape. Pregnancies are planned by lesbian couples. So outside of rape, abortion rights isn't one of the biggest concerns on their lists. Nor did his mentor or pastor for 20 years who compared likened gay sex to rape, murder and lynching. Jeremiah Wright made that comparison not in some unearthed sermon but on national television (Bill Moyers' embarrassing interview with Wright back in April -- and no, Moyers didn't question him on that call). They do care about self-respect. Barack showed no respect to the LGBT community. Most laughable is Gandy's claim that "Sen. Obama opposed the nominations of George Bush's extreme right-wing nominees to the Supreme Court, who have consistently ruled against women's rights," -- Kim ends her sentence with a comma and not a period. Cass Sunstein is one of Barack's advisors. Sunstein endorsed John Roberts appointment to the Court. chicago dyke (Corrente) takes on Sunstein's latest stupidity, "Is the man really that dumb? That is, does he truly fail to understand that naming a post 'trimmers' that discusses reproductive and sexual rights places him squarely in the ass of many a joke? What a fool. The argument he makes there too is stupid. I guess young pregnant women don't deserve any rights because you know, they're too young to have sex but when they do and they get pregnant they can't be trusted to decide for themselves what to do about it, and anyway if Daddy's the Father he deserves to have another say in how to use her body Maturely, or something…"

As for Barack and abortion rights,
Marie Cocco (Washington Post Writers Group) noted of Barack, "One thing is certain: Obama has backhandedly given credibility to the right-wing narrative that women who have abortions -- even those who go through the physically and mentally wrenching experience of a late-term abortion -- are frivolous and selfish creatures who might perhaps undergo this ordeal because they are 'feeling blue'." A point Kim chooses to ignore. If Gandy's going to rail against Bully Boy's appointees (Alito and Roberts) she might take a minute to find out where Barack's team stood on those appointments. But Gandy's been hawking Barack like an Amway product for sometime now. When she tried it at NOW's July convention, the response from NOW members was underwhelming which should have been Gandy's first clue that NOW ("for women") should either sit out the 2008 election or endorse the ticket of Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente. Unlike Barack, Cynthia actually has a strong leglislative record on women's issues (no "present" votes, not even one). But Gandy proved it was all about sucking up to perceived power and not about being "for women" throughout 2008. Since NOW cannot endorse (or risk losing their tax status), Kim Gandy's statements should be pulled from NOW's website and appear only at NOW PAC (where it already appears). Failure to do so means more McCain-Feingold work on soft money is strongly needed. But, hey, just PULL THE TAX EXEMPTION STATUS ALREADY. Kim Gandy went on NPR's Morning Edition today and repeatedly referred to NOW PAC's endoresement (as did Renee Montagne) as a "NOW endorsement." She can't do that. NOW proper CANNOT make an endorsement. Kim Gandy's actions are begging for NOW's tax status to be pulled.

NOW PAC is a much smaller organization than NOW so Gandy hopes to piggy back on NOW proper (which actually has national name recognition) -- even though it skirts the law.
Lisal Loring (The Daily Kenoshan) notes that voter choice isn't just an abstract, it's a genuine issue and quotes Cynthia McKinney explaining, "I sponsored the Voter Choice Act in Congress, which would have provided for the use of ranked choice voting in Congressional elections. I fought to defend and reauthorize the Voting Rights Act. I have long been a supporter of publicly financed elections. I have advocated same-day voter registration. I voted in opposition to requiring photo ID for voting in federal elections." Cynthia McKinney's long Congress record (she served several terms -- Barack hasn't even completely his first) allowed her to amass a strong voting record on what Project Vote Smart calls "abortion issues" -- 29 chances to vote and she only missed one. (McKinney was in the US House of Rep from 1995 to 2003 and from 2005 to 2007.) Barack's been in the Senate since 2005. Project Vote Smart shows four times he could have stood up. In 2005 he did. The other three votes? He didn't bother to vote. But hey, Kim Gandy loves him, that's good enough for . . . well for Kim Gandy. Here's Cynthia on some of the stands she took on reproductive rights: "In 1999, I voted NO on barring the interstate transportation of minors to get an abortion. I supported funding contraception and UN family planning. I voted NO to oppose banning partial-birth abortions. In 2001, I voted NO on banning Family Planning funding in US aid abroad and NO on a new federal crime for harming a fetus while committing other crimes. In 2005, I voted NO on restricting interstate transport of minors to get abortions." Cynthia stood up. Kim Gandy cowered. One's a leader, one's desperately hoping to be invited to the party.

Apparently, Cynthia McKinney doesn't speak to Kim Gandy or NOW PAC. That's a good reason to revisit McKinney's July 12th acceptance speech when she won the presidential nomination (in a real roll call vote -- not the farce the Democratic Party offered) of the Green Party:

In 1851, in Akron, Ohio a former slave woman, abolitionist, and woman's rights activist by the name of Sojourner Truth gave a speech now known as "Ain't I a Woman." Sojourner Truth began her remarks, "Well children, where there is so much racket, there must be something out of kilter." She then went on to say that even though she was a woman, no one had ever helped her out of carriages or lifted her over ditches or given her a seat of honor in any place. Instead, she acknowledged, that as a former slave and as a black woman, she had had to bear the lash as well as any man; and that she had borne "thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And Ain't I a woman?" Finally, Sojourner Truth says, "If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!"
As it was in 1851, so too it is in 2008. There is so much racket that we, too, know something is out of kilter. In 1851, the racket was about a woman's right to vote. In 1848, just a few years before Sojourner uttered those now famous words, "Ain't I a Woman?" suffragists met in Seneca Falls, New York and issued a declaration.
That declaration began:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government . . . But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled."
Two hundred sixty women and forty men gathered in Seneca Falls, NY and declared their independence from the politics of their present and embarked upon a struggle to create a politics for the future. That bold move by a handful of people in one relatively small room laid the groundwork and is the precedent for what we do today. The Seneca Falls Declaration represented a clean break from the past: Freedom, at last, from mental slavery. The Seneca Falls Declaration and the Akron, Ohio meeting inaugurated 72 years of struggle that ended with the passage of the 19th Amendment in August of 1920, granting women the right to vote. And 88 years later, with the Green Party as its conductor, the History Train is rolling down the tracks.
[. . .]
My son grew up playing on the Floor underneath my desk in the Chamber of the Georgia House of Representatives. His buddies were the legislators down there, under the Gold Dome, who were my and my father's colleagues.
[. . .]
Women are still the overwhelming profile of the minimum wage worker in this country. 65% of all minimum wage workers are women, according to 2005 statistics. Despite the law, women still go to work every day, performing the same tasks as men, yet bring home less pay than their male counterparts. Asian-American and Pacific Island women make 88 cents for every dollar earned by men, but African-American women earn only 72 cents and my Latina sisters earn only 60 cents for every dollar earned by men. Overall, according to 2007 statistics, women with similar education, skills, and experience are paid 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. Equal pay for equal work is not yet a reality for working women in this country. And the glass ceiling is all too real.
[. . .]
It is for all these reasons and more that I redeclare my goals in the language of my sisters who convened at Seneca Falls, NY 160 years ago. They wrote: "It is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security." That declaration not only avoids the politics of the past, it contains a kernel for the future. How can those new guards for the future be won?" Here's how: When I was first running for Congress and it was the year of the woman, women all over the country were saying, "We want our seat at the table." And when I got to Washington, I saw that policy was really made in a room, at a table. There were real seats at the table. Well, imagine what has happened to public policy making now.

Apparently there was nothing in the above speech that NOW PAC could endorse. What a proud day today is for the National Organization FOR Women. Maybe Cynthia needs to be asking NOW PAC, "Ain't I a woman?" Maybe NOW PAC needs to read NOW's mission statement: "Our prupose is to take action to bring women into full participation in society -- sharing equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities with men, while living free from discrimination." To NOW PAC, that translates as "endorse men, ignore the women of color ticket, ignore that Cynthia has a long record of standing up for women's rights, go with Barack because we can do a trade-off and hopefully look like power players inside the Beltway!" Someone ask Kim to explain how endorsing Obama-Biden over Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente reaches NOW's "priority issues" (advancing reproductive freedom, promoting diversity & ending racism, stopping violence against women, winning lesbian rights, achieving Constitutional equality and ensuring economic justice)? Answer? It doesn't.

Meanwhile Barack played True Confessions.
Delilah Boyd (A Scriverner's Lament -- video and text) emphasizes this statement by Barack on yesterday's Good Morning America, "If we're going to ask questions about, you know, who has been promulgating negative ads that are completely unrelated to the issues at hand, I think I win that context pretty handily." Staying with TV for a moment, this Friday's NOW on PBS will be an hour long special broadcast and will examine women -- in the electorate and in office. Ralph Nader is the indepenent presidential candidate. Team Nader notes:

Cardoso, my feathered friend, you've come from flying over the Amazon jungle to a cage in Utah--albeit an open-door cage with a fine master. Do not feel alone, Cardoso. Millions of voters have also been put into a cage. It is a corporate-dominated, two-party cage with no open door unless they break out and vote for Nader/Gonzalez. This ticket stands tall for justice, peace and freedom within a competitive democracy.

Team Nader notes:

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Last night, fifteen of the best and brightest of the Nader/Gonzalez campaign -- some of them pictured here -- met at our DC headquarters office.
And they decided as a group.
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Door to door.
Person to person.
The best and the brightest of our ballot access drive.
The warriors who put Nader/Gonzalez on the ballot in 45 states.
They will now be deployed to key states.
With tens of thousands of lawn signs.
Hundreds of thousands of pamphlets.
And ready to make thousands of phone calls.
To inform the American people that they now have a choice in November.
For a candidacy that will shift the power from the corporations, back into the hands of the American people.
With ballot access now complete.
With Nader/Gonzalez polling well in a number of key swing states.
We're ready to strike.
As you know, we're in the final two days of our Get Out the Vote Fundraising Drive.
Our goal: $80,000 by tomorrow night.
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So, we need to raise $9,000 today.
And $9,000 tomorrow.
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drop $15 dollars on Nader/Gonzalez now.
And remember, if you give $100 or more now, we will send you In Pursuit of Justice, the 520-page book of essays by Ralph Nader -- essays on corporate power, the Constitution, and transforming our country. If you
donate $100 now, we will send you this historic collection -- autographed by the man himself -- Ralph Nader. (This offer ends at 11:59 p.m. September 17, 2008.)

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