Friday, September 26, 2008

A real debate requires Ralph

The weekend finally! See, we knew it would get here, if we were just patient. :D

Tonight was the big mini-debate that blocked out four candidates (Chuck Baldwin, Bob Barr, Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader). It did allow Barack time, plenty of time, to uh-uh his way through as he couldn't justify his "without preconditions" statements and as he didn't know the difference between tactics and strategy and so much more.

Barack was an embarrassment. Has a candidate ever been so ill prepared?

Ralph should have been at the debate. Brandon Brose's "Guest Column: Obama, McCain don't match up to Nader" talks more about that:

You see, we keep voting for the same failed two-party system, and we never demand more from our politics. Congress has a 12 percent approval rating, yet no one complains about the actual system. They just go on and on about the politicians, as if politics is supposed to be extremely corrupt. You hear about some new political scandal on the news almost every day. And we don't demand that the two parties actually get things done, other than just acquire power, make politics a living (not public service) and do nothing. And then we wonder why things are the way they are.
It's time to rise up, America. Wake up! Stop voting for these two major parties all the time. Think outside the box a little. "Strategic voting" is hardly strategic. It's just dumb. When did voting become a game of Battleship? Being a liberal or moderate liberal doesn't necessarily mean you have to vote straight Democrat and the same goes for conservatives and moderate conservatives voting Republican. There are other choices out there, like Ralph Nader. What the hell kind of a system only gives you two choices: Tweedledee and Tweedledum? A spoiled system, that's what. Every major democracy in the world except us has at least three major parties that do fairly well in each election.
Ralph Nader has way more experience and accomplishments than the two nominees combined. His achievements are countless: EPA, OSHA, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, FOIA, auto safety legislation and so much more. He was indirectly responsible for the passage of each of those bills and agencies. But it seems Americans don't care much for real progressives anymore. Just how many Congressmen serving today have such a huge list of accomplishments? Hardly any? I thought so. And yet all you liberals are going to vote for Obama? Oh, please! He's nothing but a utopian.
Ralph Nader actually has realistic goals in mind. He can get major things done: end the War on Drugs, get us out of the Middle East for good (not use Iraq troops for another useless 'surge' in Afghanistan), expand the corporate crime divisions of the DOJ, end wasteful military spending and focus on spending here at home, not on needless wars abroad.

Ralph's a real candidate. The two up onstage tonight? Corporate puppets play acting at democracy. (In fairness, I thought McCain made more sense that Barack. I didn't agree with McCain's comments but I could see where he came from. It was the typical conservative nonsense. Barack had some sort of neocon, neolib cobbled-together b.s.)

That's going to be it. I'm tired from the time change and the plane trip (I'm at C.I.'s through the week). Jim asked me to note that Sunday's "Cock Rock Hall of Fame" will be updated at Third this weekend with a new article. (You can also read Kat's "Cher and more" and "Ralph Nader and Cher.") Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, September 26, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announced another death, did the Obama-Biden plan for Iraq slip out accidentally, and more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katie Couric: As we stand before this august building and institution, what do you see as the role of the United States in the world?

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

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

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

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nader, Joshua Frank

Thursday! We only have to hold on for one more day and it is officially the weekend. To read the press, all students are supporting Barack. I find that strange because I'm supporting Ralph Nader and I'm sure there are students supporting Cynthia McKinney, John McCain, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin. But, to read the corporate press (or panhandle) is to think that no students support Ralph's run. This is from graduate student Quentin Geet's "Nader Offers Unique Political Perspective:"

On Sunday, Sept. 28 at 3 p.m., Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader will be at Corwin Pavilion in an "open the debates" rally. As a supporter of Nader and his running mate Matt Gonzalez, I'm really glad to have this chance to see him. But many people I talk with don't like the idea of Nader running. I usually get the same old "he's going to take votes away from Presidential Candidate Barack Obama" rhetoric.
At the same time, few of these people actually know Nader's position on important issues. They usually assume that he's just a "further left" candidate, but Obama has a more "realistic chance of getting elected." To some extent, I understand where they're coming from, but I think that it’s strange that people don't even know Nader's platform, resting content with the standard centrist candidates, and refusing to even look outside the box.
Nader supports single-payer health care like that in Canada. The New York Times reported that, under a private system, "close to 30 cents of every dollar spent on health care goes for administration." A single-payer system would have rates similar to Medicare, which spends only about 2.5 cents per dollar on administration. Although Obama will try to provide health insurance to all Americans, he still wants to keep it wrapped up in private insurance companies. This means wasteful administrative bureaucracy and profits for corporations, not a meaningful solution to America's healthcare woes. Perhaps Obama's plan has been influenced by the $9.5 million he's received from the Health Care sector.

See, we do exists. Students supporting Ralph do exist. And like Geet points out, there are very real differences between Ralph and Barack. If you want to support the candidate who really wants to change stuff, you support Ralph. Imagine how he would fight for all of us from the White House. Barack? Can't you see him caving over and over? Ralph stands up and it's not hard for him to do because he has a lifetime of standing up. Yesterday's snapshot had a part of Joshua Frank's "Oppose Barack Obama? How Dare Thee!!" and I wanted to highlight some of that:

That's not the case with Obama who says he wants an end to the war but has voted for its continuation and will leave troops and private mercenaries in the country to deal with the so-called insurgents -- even threatening to shift US forces to Afghanistan and Iran, where he's promised to bully our enemies into submission.
Obama says he supports our civil liberties but voted to reaffirm the PATRIOT Act and FISA. He says he will expand the Pentagon budget, and on Israel he promises to do whatever it takes to protect the country from "terrorists," paying little to no attention to the plight of Palestinians and their suffering in Gaza.
The good senator also wants to put Americans to work with a neo-Keynesian economic plan, producing millions of "green jobs" across the country. Our addiction to foreign crude surely needs to be dealt with, but Obama's call for diversified energy sources includes some not so great alternatives, such as nuclear power, clean coal, and more domestic oil production.
Obama also claims to speak for the underprivileged but has refused to support a cap on credit card interest rates and has spoken little about the ruthless prison industry, the war on drugs or the death penalty -- all of which unfairly affect the poor.
I would call all of these postures a huge betrayal. But they aren't. Obama has never been a true progressive. He's another centrist Democrat that has done his best to appease all sides of the political spectrum; giving the corporate wing the hard evidence they need to trust he'll protect their interests, and the left-wing, rhetoric and political bravado to ensure they won’t flee from the stifling confines of the Democratic Party.

Now why is Joshua Frank alone in saying what needs to be said? Why did the entire 'left' leap on the bandwagon for Barack, churn out puff pieces and chat him up like crazy when they're supposed to be, you know, journalists?

Why did they ignore Ralph's run?

How do you call yourself "The Progressive" and ignore Ralph's run? How do you do that?

What happened to the "independence" in "independent" media?

Can anyone explain that?

Again, you can see it as a problem or take it as a gift: 2008 was when we all learned how little 'independence' was in 'independent' media.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, September 25, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, more on what the Iraqi Parliament passed, the KRG wants a federation and not a nation, and more.

Yesterday came news of legislation passed by the Iraqi Parliament regarding provincial elections. Provincial elections was one the 18 benchmarks for Iraq. As US House Rep Lloyd Doggett reminded in last week's House Budget Committee hearing, "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 objection information instead of just the propaganda from the administration about whether those benchmarks had been met, the Congress turned to the Government Accountability Office." The White House set the benchmarks. The benchmarks were not imposed upon the White House. In July of 2007, the White House issued a press release declaring, "On January 23, 2007, the COR passed the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) Law, which the Presidency Council (the President and two Deputy Presidents) approved on February 27, 2007. On April 28, 2007, the COR [Council of Representatives] appointed the nine IHEC Commissioners in a process that the U.N. deemed fair and transparent. The Commissioners have completed appropriate training and are in the process of selecting representatives to oversee elections in the provinces. A Provincial Powers Law that defines the authorities and structures of local governments has been read twice in the COR, but changes are being considered, particularly related to the powers of the governor and the reach of the central government at the local level. At the highest levels, the Embassy is urging the Iraqi Government to take the legislative and administrative action necessary to ensure timely and fair elections. The Embassy is intensively engaged with the GOI and the COR at all levels to expedite legislation or amendments to existing legislation that will allow provincial elections to take place. New legislation or amendments to the existing law are required to set a date and secure funding for elections, as well as to establish the electoral system to be used for the vote, among other issues."

Nearly two years after defining the 18 benchmarks, the one on provincial elections may be met . . . after Bully Boy leaves office. Yesterday the Parliament did pass legislation; however, as
Erica Goode (New York Times) points out, "The law still must be approved by the three-member presidential panel led by President Jalal Talabani" who vetoed provincial election legislation passed in July. Tina Susman and Caesar Ahmad (Los Angeles Times) observe, "The bill's passage came with some major hurdles attached, at least one of which was described as a 'very dark' cloud by the United Nations' special representative, Staffan de Mistura. That issue involves the northern city of Kirkuk, which Kurdish leaders want as part of the semiautonomous Kurdistan region. The city's Sunni Arab and Turkmen populations oppose the idea. All the groups had feared that holding provincial elecitons now in Tamim, whose capital is Kirkuk, would deny them the power they seek in the oil-rich region, so the decision was made to postpone voting there." The hurdles, Sudarsan Raghaven (Washington Post) reports, were largely overcome via "a compromise brokered by the United Nations that calls for the creation of a parliamentary committee to review the status of Kirkuk" and that "14 of Iraq's 18 privnces" will hold elections "by Jan. 31" provided the presidential council signs off on the legislation. Deborah Haynes (Times of London) adds, "They will mark the first elections in almost four years and will give the clearest indication yet of different parties' strength before a general election next year." But, if signed off on, it will most likely take place after the US' next president is sworn in -- a point the State Dept's Robert Wood appears unwilling to concede. Speaking at a press briefing in DC yesterday, Deputy Spokesperson Wood declared, "We congratulate the Iraqi Parliament for passing the provincial elections law. We think this is a positive sign and certaingly shows a maturing Iraqi democracy. And we hope that there'll be provincial elections held as soon as possible, certainly before the end of the year. And -- But I'd refer you to the Iraqis for further comment on their process. I do believe, though, it goes to the presidency council -- that seems to be the next stage." On the issue of Kirkuk, Wood refused to comment stating that "these are issues that have to be worked out by the Iraqis themselves." Robert Schlesinger (US News & World Reports) offers of the legislation passing, "This should be good news, right? Well, except for the fact that the government punted on the most contentious issues."

Staying with the State Dept but unrelated to Iraq, today US Secretary of State Condi Rice spoke at the Women Leaders Working Group, which met in NYC, and her speech included the following:

I want briefly to report on what the United States has done since last year's meeting. This May, the Department of State launched a public-private partnership called the "One Woman Initiative" that focuses on justice, opportunity, and leadership. With a $100 million infusion of cash from private donors and the federal government, this international women's empowerment fund is based on the premise that the world benefits when even one woman is empowered. And with a duration of five years, the fund is initially focused on women in countries with significant Muslim populations. I am particularly proud to note that the first grants will be awarded in November.
On the issue of Women and Justice, we convened the State Department's first Senior Roundtable for Women's Justice this past March. It focused on violence against women and access to justice. This remarkable forum brought together U.S. judges with those from 20 countries to exchange ideas and best practices, and I was delighted that Sandra Day O'Connor was the keynoter for that.
I'm also pleased to announce that this fall, as a direct result of the roundtable, the United States will provide training to 23 federal judges of Malawi on issues relating to violence against women. And it should be noted that the Women and Justice Center is being created at Cornell University's Law School to serve as a comprehensive resource center to create a network for judges around the globe.
Finally, I want to note that one of our most life-changing efforts came this past June with the passage of UN Security Resolution -- Council Resolution 1820, which seeks to end sexual violence against women during armed conflict. The resolution goes a step further by noting that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity, or an act with respect to genocide.

That provides us with the chance to again note
last weekend's NOW on PBS which explored women and politics in a special one-hour broadcast that found correspondent Maria Hinojosa examining the situations in the US, Chile and Rwanda. The program is available for streaming online. On Rwanda, Dominique Soguel and Jennifer Thurston (WeNews) reported Saturday, "Rwanada is the first nation in the world where women outnumber men in parliament after legislative elections Sept. 18. Women now account for at least 55 percent of the lower chamber in Rwanda, according to provisional results. Previously, they held 48 percent of the seats." Soguel and Thurston's report is also available in audio form.

Back to Iraq,
UPI reports that Falah Mustafa, the Kurdistan Regional Government's Foreign Relations chief officer has stated, "The Kurdish leadership, including the government of the region, is determined to use dialogue as its method and remind others that today's Iraq is not the Iraq of previous regimes, but a federal, democratic, pluralistic ountry and that the Kurds are major partners in the political process." He is advocating a federalized Iraq. Which will remind some of the Kurdish pesh merga's refusal to allow the Iraqi military into some sections of Diyala Province. Yesterday saw an attack in Diyala Province. Italy's AGI explains, "The balance of yesterday's attack north-east of Baghdad has worsened, arriving at 35 dead." Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) explains the dead were "a joint force of National Police officers and members of the local Awakening Council". McClatchy Newspapers' Corinne Reilly and Hussein Kadhim sketch out what is thought to have happened, "Police said the battalion entered the village thinking it was safe because the area had recently been raided and cleared. But soon after the battalion arrived, the gunmen opened fire in a wooded area. It's unclear how many attackers were involved. None of them was killed, officials said." Citing the mayor and a security official, AFP also notes the death toll of 35 and breaks it down to 12 police officers and eight "Awakening" Council members killed on the scene with 15 injured police officers transferred to a hospital who "were dead on arrival." China's Xinhua also goes with 35 dead and cites an unnamed source in Ministry of the Interior.

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


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 Baghdad roadside bombing wounded nineteen people and claimed 2 lives, a Baghdad bombing left three people injured and a Baquba roadside bombing that claimed 3 lives.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person ("employee in the Ministry of Municiplaities and Works") was shot in Baghdad. China's Xinhua reports that five people (suspected "insurgents") were killed by Iraqi forces in Diyala Province today in the midst of a raid.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad.

Today the
US military announced: "A Multi-National Division - North Soldier was killed by a suicide bomber while conducting operations in Diyala, Iraq Sept. 24." The announcement brings the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4172 with 21 for the month thus far.

AP reports 327 case -- confirmed cases -- of cholera in Iraq. At a time when the Iraqi people may not be able to count on the UN comes the news that another supporter of the people is in question. Amit R. Paley and Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports:"The Iraqi Red Crescent, the country's leading humanitarian organization, has been crippled by allegations of embezzlement and mismanagement, including what Iraqi officials call the inappropriate expenditure of more than $1 million on Washington lobbying firms in an unsuccessful effort to win U.S. funding. The group's former president, Said I. Hakki, an Iraqi American urologist recruited by Bush administration officials to resuscitate Iraq's health-care system, left the country this summer after the issuance of arrest warrants for him and his deputies. He and his aides deny the allegations and call them politically motivated."

Turning to the US presidential race.
Yesterday The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric featured part one of an interview (link has text and video) with Governor Sarah Palin (part-two airs tonight), the GOP vice presidential candidate. Howard Kurtz (Washington Post) thinks he's found a mis-step in Palin's remarks, specifically in this section: "So, again, I believe that . . . a surge in Afghanistan also will lead us to victory there as it has proven to have done in Iraq. And as I say, Katie, that we cannot afford to retreat, to withdraw in Iraq." Kurtz offers, "The vice-presidential nominee may have misspoken in an attempt to say that President Bush's military surge in Iraq has been a success, but she did not qualify her remarks." While she may have misspoken, there's nothing in her remarks that indicates she has. In fact, her remarks are perfectly in keeping with top-of-the-ticket GOP nominee John McCain. In the last months McCain has repeatedly declared victory in Iraq but the press has rarely paid attention. There was some attention to his May 15th speech in Ohio which included, "The Iraq War has been won. Iraq is a function democracy, although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension. Violence still occurs, but it is spasmodic and much reduced. Civil war has been prevented; militias disbanded; the Iraqi Security Force is professional and competent . . ." Speech in full (text and video) at the McCain-Palin 2008 website. Based on that and other speeches McCain has given over the summer, there is nothing inconsistent with Palin's answer. (I don't happen to agree with her or McCain. That's not the issue. The issue is did she know what she was saying? Why assume she didn't? No one assumed he didn't, now did they? McCain's repeatedly made those type of remarks and there's been no questioning of them.) Let's stay with McCain's remarks for a moment because they have been noted in the snapshots. McCain's statements on withdrawal are that most US servicemembers would be out by 2013. What is "most"? That's why the press should have focused on his repeated statements that the Iraq War had been "won." (We're not going into the nonsense of 100-years which was a deliberate distortion of what McCain said.) Presumably, McCain favors US service members stationed at the US Embassy in Iraq -- US service members are stationed at all US embassies. What else does he support? That's where the press has failed by refusing to explore. And the most important question is: "If the war is won, why are US troops still in Iraq and when will they begin leaving?" McCain's actually not fenced in with his remarks and the questions wouldn't be "gotcha" in nature. He can sincerely believe the Iraq War has been won. (I obviously disagree and do not think the illegal war can be won.) But, as was pointed out in numerous snapshots, when you declare the war won then you're obligated to address what happens next. That's where the press has been lax. He, or Palin, can believe the Iraq War has been won. They can still favor a US presence there (beyond the US Embassy). They might argue that the provincial elections require US presence. They might argue other things in addition. But to know what they're going to say, they need to be asked. And they need to be listened to. Corey Flintoff (NPR) has apparently had McCain filtered through some 'left' voice which would explain this misrepresentation, "McCain has opposed any timetable for withdrawing troops, but he has suggested recently that if conditions warrant, he might reduce U.S. troop strength in Iraq by as much as half by the end of his first term in office." While McCain has stated an opposition to timetables, he has stated most US service members would be out of Iraq by 2013 if he was elected president. While he hasn't been pressed to define "most," it is more than "as much as half" as Flintoff wrongly interprets.

Couric wasn't afraid to ask Palin questions yesterday. She wasn't afraid to ask Barack questions in July though there was mock outrage over that from those that don't know the first thing about journalism. From the interview:

Couric: You've said, quote, "John McCain will reform the way Wall Street does business." Other than supporting stricter regulations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac two years ago, can you give us any more example of his leading the charge for more oversight? Palin: I think that the example that you just cited, with his warnings two years ago about Fannie and Freddie - that, that's paramount. That's more than a heck of a lot of other senators and representatives did for us. Couric: But he's been in Congress for 26 years. He's been chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee. And he has almost always sided with less regulation, not more. Palin: He's also known as the maverick though, taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party. Trying to get people to understand what he's been talking about - the need to reform government. Couric: But can you give me any other concrete examples? Because I know you've said Barack Obama is a lot of talk and no action. Can you give me any other examples in his 26 years of John McCain truly taking a stand on this? Palin: I can give you examples of things that John McCain has done, that has shown his foresight, his pragmatism, and his leadership abilities. And that is what America needs today.

Part two airs tonight.
Cynthia McKinney is the Green Party presidential candidate and she notes of the economic meltdown: "The crisis does not have to be treated as merely a 'market correction,' or the result of a few rotten appels in an otherwise pristine barrel. This crisis truly represents the opportunity to introduce fundamental changes in the way the U.S. economy and its political stewards operate. Responsible political leadership demands that the pain and suffering being experienced by the innocent today not be revisted upon them or the next generation tomorrow. But sadly, instead of affirmative action being taken in this direction, the Bush Administration ratches up the drumbeat for war, Republican Party operatives busily remove duly-registered voters from the voter rolls, and our elected leaders in the Congress go home to campaign while leaving all of us to fend for ourselves. For the Administration and the Democrat-led Congress, I declare: MISSION UNACCOMPLISHED. For the public whose moment this is, I say: Power to the People!"

McKinney's running mate
Rosa Clemente will be speaking at the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) Saturday, September 27th. Cynthia, Ralph Nader, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin have all offered to appear at the presidential debate scheduled Friday. McCain has called off his appearance there. Whether that changes or not, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has insisted he will be there. McCain has stated that the focus should be on addressing the economic meltdown via the Congress. Barack has stated, "It's my belief that this is exactly the time when the American people need to hear from the person who in approximately 40 days will be responsible for dealing with this mess. Part of the president's job is to deal with more than one thing at once." Some foolish left and 'left' types have applauded that nonsense. They're mistaken for several reasons including (a) the next president will not be sworn in until January (not on election day) and (b) great line . . . if you're John Edwards. Edwards, you may recall, is not in the Senate. Edwards could have made that line. The response to Barack is, "Part of a sitting senator's job is to deal with more than one thing at once" including, you know, actually tending to the business you were elected to address in the 2004 election. Equally true is that Barack's cancelled debates over the last 12 months. Not just refused to accept offers, but cancelled debates. The December 10th debate to be aired by CBS was cancelled by Democratic presidential candidates -- including Barack -- due to the writers' strike. April 27th, and we're back to CBS again, Barack, and only Barack, cancelled the North Carolina Democratic Party presidential debate. It was to be Barack and Hillary Clinton but Barack had bombed in the ABC debate the week before. Staying with the Christ-child for a moment more, garychapelhill (The Confluence) notes Barack's latest, "Barack Obama is a bigot. He has just launched a 'Faith, Family, Values Tour' which will feature Douglas Kmiec, a supporter of Proposition 8, a consitutional ban to California's legal gay marriage. Obama thinks that gay people can be used to help him get elected and then stab them in the back before they even get to the voting booth. And you know what? he's probably right. That's because the largest gay rights advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign, has been giving it up for free since they endorsed Obama, despite his long list of homophobic friends and associates." He used homophobia to win North Carolina, why not use homphobia in the general? It's not like his supposed 'progressive' followers called him out. Laura Flanders, Amy Goodman, et al. didn't say one damn word. And they're not saying a word now.

Of Barack and McCain and the potential Friday debate,
Steve Conn (Dissident Voice) points out, "In their public statements, the two major party Presidential candidates and their corporate advisors scramble to avoid blame. On Friday [. . .], these two candidates will debate. The good citizen who warned of the impending crime, who is also a Presidential candidate), has not been invited. According to the debate commission, funded by the two major parties, the rules don't allow it. But, given his uniquely prescient warning to America, shouldn't he be allowed to say a few words about the crime?"

Conn is referring to to independent presidential candidate
Ralph Nader who called out the Congressional response on Democracy Now! today, "I don't think the Democrats show any nerve that they are going to do anything but cave here. And the statements by Nancy Pelosi are not reassuring, which is, 'Well, it's the Republicans' bill, you know. Let them take responsibility for it.' That doesn't work. She's the Speaker of the House. The Democrats have got to say, 'Slow down. We're not going to be stampeded into this bill by Friday or Saturday. We're going to have very, very thorough hearings.' Otherwise, it's another collapse, at constitutional levels, of the Congress before King George IV." Amy Goodman continued to trivialize Ralph's run by asking, in her fifth toss to him, "And, Ralph Nader, would you consider, given the stakes of this election, encouraging your supporters in swing states to vote for Barack Obama?" Goodman hasn't had a sit down with Barack but she has interviewed him and she never asked him that question. Goodman should answer why she thinks an independent candidate should fold up their campaign for the benefit of one of the 'majors'? She should then be asked, in light of the layoffs in the news business, if she'd consider telling viewers in 'swing states' to watch CBS, NBC or ABC and stop watching her 'independent' program?

Ralph's response included: "I'm not at all impressed by Barack Obama's positions on this so-called bailout. It's just rhetoric. His Senate record has not reflected that at all.
As we campaign around the country--we're now in forty-five states plus the District of Columbia, and we're running five, six, seven percent in the polls, which is equivalent to nine, ten million eligible voters--we are going to try to rouse the public in a specific way: laser-beam focus on their senators and representatives. When these senators and representatives, if they allow this bailout deal in this general, vague manner to pass, when they go back home, they're going to hit hornets' nest. This is a situation where it doesn't matter whether the people back home are Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Libertarians, Nader-Gonzalez supporters. There's such a deep sense of betrayal, of panic, of stampede, of surrender, of cowardliness in Congress, that it's going to affect the election and the turnout. I'd like Barack Obama, actually, to support the Nader-Gonzalez ticket."

At the Nader - Gonzalez website,
attorney Greg Kafoury explains:

Senator McCain has suspended his campaign in order to return to Washington to work on the proposed
bailout situation. McCain said, "We must meet as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved." The Nader campaign wishes to point out that more than a third of registered voters are neither Republicans nor Democrats, and that Ralph Nader is registering between 5 and 8 percent in many major states, including swing states. Is Senator McCain suggesting that only Republicans or Democrats are entitled to be heard on the most important domestic political crises in the last 70 years? If the future of all Americans is at stake in the current crisis, shouldn't all Americans have representatives at the table? We suggest that Mr. Nader, former Congressman Barr and any others who show significant levels of popular support should be included in any gatherings that are convened to resolve this crisis. Further, the fact that the Presidential debates scheduled for this Friday can be simply canceled by the Republican nominee shows the extent to which the debate commission is nothing but a creature of the two major parties, designed largely for the purpose of excluding third parties and independent candidacies form having a voice in our most vital public forum. We call upon Senators McCain and Obama to recognize that we are all in this together, and to give representatives of the entire American electorate a seat at the table and a voice in the debates.

Meanwhile, New York's NOW president
Marcia Pappas (Women's Outlook NOW) breaks down the realities about the feminist movement and political parties -- a breakdown that is overdue since so many seem to have forgotten the historical basics -- and offers, "We have become too attached to a political party. Leaders in my movment have cozzied up to the party operatives in DC and we have lost what little power we had. This is the reason why we are having trouble gaining them back. There is no time like the present to detach from an abuser. I believe that political parties that take constituents for granted eventually end up abusing them more and more. This is what has happened over time. It is high time that we pull ourselves away and hold every single politician's feet to the fire."

iraqthe new york times
erica goode
the los angeles timestina susmancaesar ahmedthe washington postsudarsan raghavan
pbsnow on pbsmaria hinojosa
deborah haynes
alissa j. rubinmcclatchy newspaperscorinne reillyhussein kadhim
katie couricthe cbs evening news
amit r. paleyernesto londono

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Nader, movies

Hump day, hump day. Only two more days to get through to make it to the weekend. We can do it! :D In good news, Friday's debate may have been called off. McCain's saying it is, Barack's saying it's not. I guess Barack will stand on stage by himself if it comes to that. He does love the camera.

Katie Couric interviewed Sarah Palin on the CBS Evening News tonight. The second part airs tomorrow.

Okay, politics on hold now.

How come?

Dad called me and asked, "Did you hit your head?" :D

He went down this long, long list of "old movies" I have seen. (Referring to last night's post.) I should explain first that I consider real "old movies" to be the ones so old that they are in black & white.

Even with that, I forgot a lot last night.

Just with Marilyn Monroe alone, my dad said, I should have remembered the Marx brothers because she's in Love Happy. Okay, I've seen that and Duck Soup and Marx brothers films that I don't even know the names of.

I've seen all the Abbot & Costello films many times over.

If it was comedy and black & white, I probably saw it.

I've also seen Double Indemity many times. That's where Barbara Stanwyck and the dad from My Three Sons kill her husband for the insurance money. I've probably seen that about 30 times at least.

I did mention Some Like It Hot last night, at least. That's probably the black and white film I have seen the most times. It would make my top ten list of all time favorites. This one stars Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis.

What's cool about that comedy is that it has everything.

It opens with a car chase and shooting. These caskets are shot up and they contain booze. It's set during Prohibition. Then you see the underground speak easy where they serve the booze and they have a band onstage that Jack and Tony are playing in. The joint gets raided and Tony and Jack manage to make it out without being arrested but they need to make money and they make the rounds for jobs. One of Tony's sometimes girlfriends is mad at him and she sends him to her boss' office where a saxophone player and a bass are needed; however, it turns out they have to be women.

They end up in the garage witnessing a murder and then have no choice but to go into hiding. So they dress up like women and grab that band job which is where Marilyn comes in.

It's a very funny movie.

Now I was trying to think what to say about Ralph Nader tonight? Then I found this letter to the editor of the Manchester Times by Liz Arone and it says it all:

Third Parties Are The Change We Need
It's hard for me to believe that all those tens of thousands of people attending and watching the conventions are buying into all the talk of change when either Obama or McCain enter office.
The speeches were designed to appeal to the national, patriotic and party side of our human nature, filled with platitudes and personal stories. It's all about appearance and salesmanship. Telling us what we want to hear, that they're human like us. But they did not tell the truth. Obama's voting record has already proven he speaks with forked tongue. And we know McCain has voted with Bush 80 percent of the time. You can't elect these candidates based on the utopian society they promise to bring when their voting records say otherwise. This happens every four years and look where we are. And you can't elect candidates who accept enormous contributions from corporations and special interest groups because you know they'll have to pay the piper.
Do my fellow Americans stop to think that most of the people in Congress, Senate and the Assembly have been there for the greater part of their lives and careers? This country is run by incumbents, people who have proven track records. How can we expect change from them anytime soon?
They all talked about fighting for the people, but their history tells otherwise. Why is our economy such a mess, where are all the jobs, where is our health care, why are thousands of innocents dying in the Middle East, why is our environment on the brink? It's certainly not our fault, but I can say, our fault does lie in not holding our elected officials accountable to the will of the people.
The American people have a constitutional right to hear all sides and make an informed decision when it comes time to vote. We are being deprived of that right. The mainstream media won't talk about Ralph Nader, but his ratings are going up in the polls despite their attempt to black him out.
He could be the change we need, yet people are wed to the concept of a broken two party system.

Liz Arnone, Brick

Real debates in a real democracy invite the candidates. A fake debate in a fake democracy refuses to put the candidates on the stage because they want to narrow down your choices to what they consider 'safe'. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the
VA also issued a press release regarding ALS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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