Saturday, December 08, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth (of Ruth's Report): This will be an odds and ends report where I basically address some questions and issues that visitors raised in the public e-mail account ( If community members e-mail me at my own account or at the private e-mail accounts for members, I either reply or save it for my column each Tuesday in Hilda's Mix.

The lack of e-mails to visitors results in regular questions best summed up by one man who wrote three times last week and, the last two times, asked, "Why won't you reply?" He seemed to feel I was scared of his question. I am not afraid of his question; however, I am not qualified to answer it. His concern is with Pacifica specifically and all independent media in general receiving foundation grants. He has concluded that this has diluted both the coverage and independence and provides a wealth of links that I could read "and see it backs me up." I do not have a the time for a wealth of links and I do not know that I am qualified to comment on the topic. My gut instinct tells me that there is a trade-off whenever monies are exchanged and that includes grants. If, as he feels, the trade-off is not equal, he can start his own website for free at Blogspot/Blogdrive and address the issue. If he does and he e-mails to notify me of his post or posts, I will be happy to link to them and suggest everyone read them to be aware of his issues of concern.

Why do I not reply to e-mails to the public account? I actually do reply to some even now. But apparently I need to revisit the topic. Jess responded to an organization and found his e-mail forwarded to people at The Nation. Thus far, the e-mail Jess responded to has not been made public but it may be in 2008. Jess' e-mail contained nothing embarrassing but someone apparently thought, "I'll get in good with The Nation!" So they sent it along. While Jess has nothing to be embarrassed about from that passed on e-mail, the e-mail he was replying to will embarrass the organization that e-mailed this site. While that e-mail came into this site, it is equally true that Rebecca responded to a blogger who e-mailed her to praise her and ask one question. He then forwarded her e-mail and attempted to deny it despite the fact that Rebecca has a copy of it being forwarded.

Early on Jim used to make the point repeatedly at The Third Estate Sunday Review that the gang was doing an online site, they were not running a pen-pal club. "At the end of the day," he told me Saturday, "we are judged by what features we posted on Sunday. That's what we set out to do. I know that statement has always pissed people off, including members of the community. We now do the mailbag feature as often as possible to address things that come in. Is it reflective? No, it's not. If it were reflective, the bulk of it would be comments praising Ava and C.I.'s TV commentaries. But are we running a site or are we replying to e-mails?"

Jim cites C.I.'s 'model' as the reason for the confusion. The Common Ills is not a "blog." C.I. started it having never seen a blog and it quickly turned into responding to issues raised in the e-mails. A generic e-mail goes out automatically from the public account to anyone who writes. The generic e-mail was set up in January 2005 when the incoming e-mails became too many to address. C.I. worked with The Third Estate Sunday Review on their first edition and on every edition since. Only Ava and C.I. have worked each week on every edition of that site. When they finally persuaded C.I. to be credited as "one of the gang," Jim explains, "The one condition was that we create an automated reply because C.I. wouldn't be a part of it unless everyone who e-mailed got some form of acknowledgement."

At this site, the private e-mail accounts were set up so that C.I. could pull from them quickly and address the concerns of members without having to search through the public account. The public account is now worked by Jess, Ava, Dona, Martha, Shirley and Eli as well as C.I. All also work the members accounts. If anyone else finds an e-mail that feel C.I. needs to see, it is put into a folder that C.I. addresses as time permits. There is also a folder for e-mails to Kat and for e-mails to me.

The e-mails coming into this site are read. They may or may not receive a reply. But there are very few private replies that go out as a result of the fact that e-mails have been passed on. As a general rule, if you are a reporter who is covered here, you do not get a reply from a C.I. Someone else may choose to reply to you such as Ava who loves responding to the coffee fetchers; however, C.I. does not respond because, as stated here many times, "I have enough conflicts of interest already without creating new ones." C.I. has broken that rule twice. Once it was with a reporter for The New York Times, once it was with a reporter in independent media. In one instance, the reporter was having a meltdown, this was 2005, and there was enough already going on. This is the summer of 2005 when C.I. announced that the site would most likely go dark after the November 2008 elections. There were a number of other issues going on at that time and members will remember them, as well as the fact that C.I. stated the illegal war would still be going on past November 2008. The two created "a bit of a shock," Jim remembers. "Both for us because sentiment was really turning against the illegal war, public sentiment, and 2008 seemed so far away. Now it's right around the corner and, of course, the illegal war is no closer to ending despite the fact that public sentiment against the illegal war has only increased. That was a really rough writing edition both because I was pressuring Ava and C.I. to drop the show they wanted to review and to focus on another to deliver something really hard hitting and because there was a feature that C.I. wanted no part of, and had no part of and we noted it, and also really didn't want it written. During a break, C.I. checks the public e-mail account for The Common Ills and finds the cry baby from the paper of no record whining and blustering. His name was misspelled by one letter! Oh, the tragedy. In most cases, it wouldn't matter because of the fact that C.I. intentionally misspells or nicknames many reporters but this wasn't an Iraq-related reporter. We all, Dona, Ty, Ava, Jess, C.I. and myself, possibly Kat as well, spent hours trying to find that entry to correct that one letter. When we finally found it, C.I. had excerpted two paragraphs from another site, the site was clearly credited, and that site had misspelled the reporter's name by leaving out one letter. That e-mail really ticked me off for two reasons and the second was I doubted the cry baby had complained to the blogger who was excerpted. I did e-mail the blogger and he replied to me that the reporter had never griped about his misspelled name. No surprise." In the other instance of C.I. replying, C.I. was informing a reporter why they were perceived in a negative manner and what they needed to do change that. I will note that the reporter used that input but never bothered to say thank you. Then the advice was disregarded a few months later and the reporter is now viewed negatively again.

Many e-mail to gripe and whine in the public account and when I told C.I. I was writing about this topic, I was asked to note that Felicity Berringer is the only reporter who has ever "had the guts" to take her issue public. You can click here to read her comments. I will note that in 2005, when Ms. Berringer wrote that article which clearly intended to push the notion that environmentalists were shifting to support for nuclear energy, C.I. called it out. Had more done so in real time, possibly they would not have needed to do so in 2006 and 2007 as they rush on the scene to act as though this selling a lie just began.

"If someone's been mentioned here," C.I. explains, "I read the e-mail. If anyone wants to go public, they can. I might advise them not to. I'm thinking of when a friend who is a commentator and not a reporter e-mailed the site offended by what we'd said about him. He stated we'd distorted his comments on something that happened in 2005. In that instance, if he had wanted his comments to go up here, I would've e-mailed him to explain why he did not. We never commented on what he said or didn't say in 2005. A mutual friend was playing a joke on him. This was addressed at the site and Jess e-mailed him to notify him that he was being played, pranked, and to read the entry that had just gone up clarifying that no one, not me, not you, had commented on anything he'd said in 2005. But if someone wants to comment on something that actually went up here, a critique of them, they're welcome to. My attitude has always been, 'I've had my say, have your say.' With Berringer, I was perfectly comfortable with posting her e-mail, with her permission. That would have been the end of it for me. The community had an uproar over that. So I ended up having to do an entry that evening commenting on their reactions and weighing in. I'm not really interested in that but aware, aware now, that it is expected. If you disagreed with Berringer, and the community did, my own personal feelings were, we already addressed it. We've weighed in, then she weighed in, and we move on to something else. That didn't happen because members thought it required a response and my own personal feelings were that it had already been addressed. There's not going to be any chance that she's going to say, 'Oh my goodness, they're right!' And there's not any chance that members are going to say, 'Oh my goodness, she's right!' What the exchange, my opinion only, should have done was to provide members with where she was coming from, her views. I appreciate that she took her issues public. What I wrongly thought members would understand is that we are a site for the left. As such, we will be in opposition to most mainstream reporting which, by its stated goal, is not supposed to lean left or right. There was never going to be agreement by members and Berringer but it was, I felt, a way for her to offer where she was coming from. In fairness to her, it needs to be noted that a daily paper is concerned with 'new'. That some environmentalists or 'environmentalists' were publicly joining the push for nuclear energy will result in coverage because that is 'news.' Where I feel her article failed was in not giving equal weight to the vast number of environmentalists that still oppose nuclear energy. Her argument might be, that position is well known. Her argument in her response, I believe, was that she offered dissenting views. They were not given equal weight and the thrust of the article was that the new move in environmental circles was support for nuclear energy. That was not reality. After her comments were posted, the reaction of the community was obviously 'hostile' and I did make a point to try to include some things she'd written afterwards that were stronger because the hostility was so intense in the community and what I had hoped was that the reaction would be, 'I disagree with her. I don't care for her reporting in that story but she does outline what she was attempting and that's more than many have ever bothered to do.' I'm not saying members were 'wrong.' But I am saying that I didn't anticipate that reaction. Now I will. If anyone wants something to go up, I know I will have to offer some response. If it happens again, I would prefer that a response go up and stay up long enough to be read and digested before a response goes up. Myself, I don't care to read the letters section of a magazine where one person sounds off and the writer of the piece sounds off in response. But that's what would happen here and I'm aware of that. With friends who want to sound off, I usually advise them to take it to one of the community newsletters. Gina does a wonderful job with those where she's able to offer an actual exchange, because the newsletters are more private, and to demonstrate what I hoped exchanges like Felicity Berringer's did which is there's a report, here's an opinion, here's a response. Weigh it and make up your own minds. Gina handles that amazing well and I think she's helped explain the process when you are at a news outlet and have to adhere to what passes for 'balance.' I think she's also made very strong points about how 'balance' should not replace truth and how it frequently does."

C.I. explained the reasons for replies to e-mails and how e-mails, from the start, determined the focus of this site. I had five e-mails from the public account to use as examples of people who were upset that they didn't receive a personal reply and C.I. noted, "None of those are about Iraq so the first question is, 'Why did you bother to write?' As a feminist, I will bend over backwards to include issues specific to women and maybe that confuses some and they think, 'Oh, they'll note this too!' But we are focused on Iraq. Whether it's Iraq related or not, if it comes into the public account, it goes into a folder and I work from that folder as time permits. Time may never come. Something else may need to be focused on and that's generally the result of the mood of the community. If someone wants something highlighted in the paper, and this is one of the e-mails you've printed up, that they've written and it does get highlighted, they've really got no point in complaining that I disagreed with them. They got their name, they got a quote, they got a link. I really don't know what more they want other than to put words into my mouth. That piece, there is no way anyone in the community was going to agree with it. I only included it because the writer had e-mailed the site. It was Iraq related, we could fit it in, it wasn't right-wing but it also wasn't realistic. You got your link, you got your name, you got a quote. You're not happy with my opinion? What is this site but opinion? You were attempting to do something good, I understand that. You compromised your position in doing so and I also understand that and am not going to just provide a pull quote and a link without commenting on the piece itself when it so clearly needed commenting on. I never wrote the writer when the request came in, I worked it in as soon as I could, I put it into a snapshot which mean it was reposted at every community site that posted that day. The link means anyone interested in the topic had access to your writing. Again, other than putting words into my mouth, I really do not know what more that writer wanted. Now he's upset that I commented and thinks it is rude that I never personally responded to his first e-mail. I'm not personally responding to his second. He asked for something, he got it, he might not need to be grateful, but he should have seen he received what he wanted which was a link to his piece. The end result is his nasty little e-mail means he'll never be noted here again. Links can provide traffic where you will be read, links also effect online rankings. I take it very seriously who we link to and who we don't.

"In the case of the other four e-mails," C.I. continues, "we can summarize those as 'I'm trying to understand where you're coming from.' Fine, if that's what you're trying to do. If that's what you're trying to do, it's factored in because I'm lacking clarity on some issue and need to address that. That's valuable input. But in the case of these four, they aren't trying to understand a position, they're wanting personal information about me. There's far too much personal information already up and that comes from having to churn out entries day after day. But I'm not the Iraq War. A group of coffee fetchers, despite Ava's fiery replies to them, continue to e-mail and they're not e-mailing for any valid reason. I'm old enough, too old, to know that game which is: 'I will pretend I love them and then offer that they need to tone it down.' I really am not seeking 'love' from an online site, so that's your first mistake. Your second is assuming my ego is so great that I could ego trip out on your e-mail. I make a ton of mistakes every day in my personal life and online. I do not think I'm perfect, I think I am as humanly away from perfect as anyone could get. So you're tactic of 'I will subvert the website by feeding the ego' is a failed tactic. I've never looked to strangers for validation and never will. I've never been concerned with 'tone' because I know how the press works. All this 'I'll soften my critiques and they'll see my point' is nonsense. I know how those critiques are received from growing up. The comments you've structured to be in agreement register and the minor criticism you offer is blown off. Those letters never were the topic of dinner conversation growing up. The ones that hit hard were. The ones that didn't try to flatter or soothe the ego made an impression. It was usually one of 'How dare they write that!' but it registered. Not surprisingly, that's the tactic the right has employed forever. And they've done so with great success. It has moved the mainstream press to the right even while polling demonstrates no such move among the country. So this 'more flies with sugar' nonsense is nonsense. I'm not trying to 'catch flies.' I can understand why someone attempting to set themselves up as a paid commentator would utilize that approach. But I'm not paid for this and I'm not trying to turn it into a career.

"Here's the reason this site started. In February 2003, a friend had scheduled some speaking appearances against the possible Iraq War but ended up getting requests to do another set of appearences on the same topic. She didn't want to just cancel the previous ones but the second set would provide her with a larger number of people. I said I'd fill in when I was asked. Then the illegal war broke out. I know a lot of professors and they asked me to speak since I'd already spoken before the start of the war. This was never planned to be something I'd do over and over. I continued doing it throughout 2003 and 2004. I supported John Kerry in the 2004 election and donated to the campaign. I did not use any of my campus activity to endorse a candidate during the primaries or after them. The focus was Iraq and students could and did vouch for whatever candidate they wanted. That was fine. I was there to talk about Iraq. The 2004 election was a shock. I think the work done by Harper's magazine and others demonstrate that the election results were in question. But, since no one was going to question them with the power to demand a recount, that really wasn't my concern. A week or so after the election, I met with friends who had either worked on getting Kerry elected or worked on ending the illegal war or both. We reviewed what we'd done and how effective it had or had not been. We talked about what we could have done differently or what avenues we didn't even attempt. Elaine and Rebecca, who were not at this meeting, had been among the people saying to me, 'You should do a blog.' I didn't know what a blog was and I didn't have the time. One of the points made during the meeting was that the press was able to saturate on an issue, which they are, and that the counter to that wasn't as effective as it should be, which it's not. Blogs were brought up. I left that meeting and that night started up The Common Ills. I had no idea what I was doing and I may have seen something in Clamor on Blogger/Blogspot. I was on the phone with Elaine talking about something different, she thought I was typing something like a letter. I was filling her in on the meeting while trying to figure out Blogger/Blogspot. At the end of it, she said, 'You need to start a blog.' I replied, 'I just did.' She was the only one I told originally. I didn't know what I was doing, I don't claim that I did. Day two, I was able to post without my hands shaking, I was very nervous on the first night, and thought I did several entries to try to figure out how it worked. I did and by the last one that day, there were comments at the site as well as e-mails. I, honestly, assumed those were friends of Elaine. Jim and Dona were among the first to write and it was only after I met them that I stopped suspecting Elaine had told people, 'Go read The Common Ills and write in.' I didn't know how to do a blog. I did know how to be a resource. That's what the early e-mails and comments steered us to. We dropped comments because of concerns from African-Americans about the way they were treated at other sites. I didn't know how to drop comments at that time, I didn't know how to alter that, but when the issue was raised, I immediately said, 'Give me time to figure it out and I will pull them.' When Keesha was attacked by 'Blue Dog Democrats' one day in the comments, I made myself figure out how. If someone goes through those earliest entries, we are talking about Iraq. It wasn't the only focus but it was covered every day. The site quickly became a resource more and more and what members want is Iraq. That is because Iraq receives so little coverage. The US is engaged in a war, an illegal war but for those who can't handle that, let's just say 'a war.' And the press -- big and small -- treats it as though it's not really happening. How do you do a two-hour debate with presidential candidates on public radio and never ask them about a war when the country is engaged in an ongoing war. Even if you don't believe it's an illegal war, how do you ignore that topic?

"So we cover the illegal war and we're not doing it to win friends. I don't need money, I don't need attention. Therefore, I don't need to include 'qualifiers' and a bunch of fluff that will allow me to parlay this into a paying gig. I'm not running advertisements or asking for donations. That allows this site to be truly independent. So the 'tone' crowd can save their attempts at changing the way things are discussed here via their use of fake flattery and should instead be grateful this site exists so that they can point to it, from their slightly to the left of center positions, and say, 'See, we're not radical. We're not that left. Look at The Common Ills.' We provide a lot of cover for them to hide behind. It's amazing that when we only offered negative criticism of big media, little media was on board -- with links and with e-mails. The idea that little media could be criticized as well seems to be shocking to the coffee fetcher crowd. Well too damn bad. I'm on the phone every week screaming at friends, family and ex-lovers in big media about their coverage. Most of them know I do The Common Ills and most of them were saying, 'You don't criticize small media.' That's a valid point and when small media screws up, whether it's CounterSpin or whomever, they get called out here. Friends at CBS were furious, rightly, with CounterSpin deciding to critique via ratings. What does that have to do with quality and where does someone with CounterSpin's smaller audience get off criticizing how many people are tuning in? That was a valid complaint and that really was the shift for me. Katrina vanden Heuvel is a joke to some in big media and, when she embarrasses herself, if someone in big media is willing to do a trade-off on something Iraq related, she'll get called out here for whatever bad logic she offered.

"That covers all but one e-mail. The last one is whining about their presidential preferences. We're a site for the left so if you're candidate isn't -- in the most general and watered-down sense -- left, youre candidate's not getting covered. Of the Democratic candidates, if you don't feel your candidate is getting their 'props,' take it up with your candidate's campaign. There was a link to Hillary Clinton provided in a snapshot last week and that was because her campaign was one of the few offering anything new all week on Iraq. It was Wesley Clark mentioning it in his endorsement, but look at the campaign sites, as a friend at NPR told me when defending NPR's lack of attention to Iraq in that so-called 'debate,' and you'll see that the candidates are running from it. I know most of the candidates and I've not shown any favoritism based on that. Joe Biden is someone I think is a very decent person. There's been no attempt to avoid calling him out on his desire to partition Iraq. Barack Obama's groupies can complain and probably have the most legitimate complaint. Prior to his running for the Democratic presidential nomination on his 'I was against the war in 2002,' he's not really dealt with at this site. When he started running for president and offering that nonsense and calling out John Edwards on his vote, he became a hypocrite. Not just because in 2004 he told The New York Times he wasn't sure how he would have voted if he'd been in Congress -- but note that, he wanted to call out Edwards in a debate for a vote that, in 2004, he was saying he didn't know how he would have voted. The fact is Elaine and I showed up at fundraiser for his 2004 Senatorial campaign ready to write big checks. We were and are both against the illegal war. We made that very clear during our 'face time.' We were shocked to hear this alleged anti-war candidate tell us that he didn't favor withdrawal. We left immediately and, no, we didn't contribute to his campaign. To hear him now repeatedly present himself as an opponent of the illegal war is laughable. And it's a real shame that only Chris Dodd's campaign has had the guts to call him out on how his position has shifted. The mainstream press hasn't. They've treated him as novelty. The exception there would be the Chicago press. The bulk of independent media appears to have signed on to his campaign offering excuses and public pleas that they don't offer to any other candidate. A candidate that you feel needs to be coaxed isn't much of a candidate. That he put homophobes on stage at a campaign event should have led to serious criticism but it didn't. Independent media largely took a pass. The exception there would be Black Agenda Report. But tell me The Nation wouldn't be all over Hillary if she'd put a homophobe on stage at one of her events and the homophobe had then gone on to express his homophobia? She would have been trashed in online posts, in written articles and possibly an editorial. But with Barack it's all cuddle and fondle. That's ridiculous. If you can't hold him up to a standard when he's a candidate in a primary, you won't hold him up to a standard if he makes it into the general election and you won't hold him up to a standard if he becomes president. If somehow you managed to, on the latter, it would be far too little, far too late. Little media, overall, has refused to inform about Obama. They have, instead, signed up for his campaign. I'm not interested in who anyone's voting for, I'm not following anyone into the booth and approving their ballot. I am interested in an independent media that tells the truth and it is not telling the truth when, in 2008, a candidate can provide a forum for homophobia and not get called out on it. That's supposedly a battle that was already fought and won. A friend who is a lesbian was publicly on the Obama train. I asked her how she of all people could be onboard after that event? She didn't even know about it. She was hearing about it from me for the first time. She researched it, found out it was true and is now publicly supporting John Edwards. That would be true of a number of people because homophobia is outrageous, you don't have to be gay or lesbian to find it outrageous, if independent media had done their damn job and covered it.

"Our chief concerns at this site regarding elections are that the point be clear (1) an election isn't going to end the war and (2) anyone who wants to run should run. We will not support a 'Ralph Don't Run!' campaign. I am not slamming those who did in 2004. I didn't get on board that then and I would hope that I wouldn't have if I'd had the time. I can understand how people were of the opinion that 2004 mattered so much that they had to take part in that. But the reality is every election matters. We've already seen this year efforts to start a 'Cindy Don't Run' campaign against Cindy Sheehan. That's really appalling. We're talking about a House race in this instance so to read people from outside the district attempt to not only provide cover for Nancy Pelosi but also to attack democracy -- that's what those things are, an attack on democrcy -- is just appalling. So the second point is very important to me because if we do not stand up against those campaigns, they become more and more accepted and more and more common. If you're left, right, center or apolitical and you want to run, you should. No one should tell you not to or that we can't afford your running. I mean, obviously they can, that's free speech, but don't pass off that message as democratic because it's not. Cindy's run could inspire others who have never run to go for public office and that's something we on the left supposedly support: more candidates, more choices, contested races. A 'Why I won't vote for' or 'I won't vote for' piece is one thing and it's part of the democratic process. But 'Don't run ___' is not part of democracy. There's a woman, a Democratic challenger, I don't know her name, running against Dennis Kucinich for the party's Congressional nomination. We haven't weighed in -- at any community site -- with a 'Don't Run __.' Now a number of members have publicly endorsed Kucinich in the presidential primary and the bulk have websites. But you didn't see anyone rush to type up a 'Don't Run ___' piece. Because we don't believe in that and we don't support it. In terms of the first issue, when the 2008 election rolls around finally, I don't want us -- those trying to end the illegal war -- in the same position we were in after the 2004 election where Iraq disappeared from the radar, where some 'left' voices began weighing in that the US had to stay in Iraq -- while attempting to pretend that they were against the illegal war -- and I especially do not want to see that shock and depression that so many students felt after the 2004 elections. The only thing to compare it to is the hype they were given in 2003, where they were told, 'We turn out for this big rally and it will stop the war from starting.' They turned out and the illegal war still started. There's been a lot of hype and we try to make it very clear that elections don't end wars, people do.

"The e-mail, the one where the man claims both to want to understand 'where you're coming from' and to whine about how his candidate doesn't get enough support, also ends with 'Remember, not everyone is perfect.' I didn't know anyone was. But if that's directed at me, we've just finished our third year online. If I was going to grade it, I would have high marks for Kat's reviews, your reports, Isaiah's comics, Shirley and Martha's end of the year book lists and the individual contributions of members. I wouldn't give myself high marks or even relatively high marks. 'It is what it is,' Kat's phrase that's now being used by the Hillary Clinton campaign. Which may outrage Kat more than when a friend of mine turned her into a character on a TV show. In 2005, we actually had the time to note Black History Month and Women's History Month and did that through members' contributions. With the newsletters, more and more members weigh in on topic through those, which is great. But that's one area, I'd mark low. I'd also mark myself low on everything I write because there's never enough time -- forget typos, I don't care about typos -- everything is rushed and instant. I don't worry over that or obsess over it. To do so would mean nothing would ever go up here. But I'd give this a low C at best, if I were grading myself. In terms of whether or not we succeed with our purpose, to address the illegal war every day and do so speaking as people wanting to end the illegal war, we do succeed there. For myself, judging what I've done, the biggest regrets are when I've stayed silent. And of those regrets, the best example is Suzanne Swift. From the start, there was a push to promote her as a war resister. If she'd ever stated publicly she was one, that would be one thing and should be supported. But she got tagged with that and I knew it was hurting her story. I'd be griping to a friend that they hadn't covered her story and I'd sketch it out. They'd look into it and call me back later to say she was a war resister. Due to that, mainstream media kept a distance. I knew that would happen, I knew it was happening. I made the mistake of not calling it out loudly. I regret that and feel that I failed her. When I finally had enough of that nonsense, when a producer at a news magazine called me to say they'd discussed it but wouldn't be doing anything on it, I wrote an entry that morning saying she wasn't a war resister and that it was hurting her cause to keep calling her that. No help at all, in turns out, because her mother, Sara Rich, would be on Democracy Now! later that day discussing the outcome of her court-martial. So it was too late by then. That was my mistake and that bothers me and troubles me. Someone's name getting mispelled doesn't. What happened to Suzanne Swift was not just wrong, it was offensive and that it was allowed to pass by without comment -- or without the kind of comments it required -- puts every woman in the military at risk. Suzanne Swift needs to be discharged immediately, honorably with full benefits, and she needs to be apologized to by the military. The sexual abuse she suffered was allowed to go unchallenged because the war resister issue entered into it. That shouldn't have happened and I do hold myself responsible for not using my own voice to call that out. Any other regret I have pales in relation to that. I don't care what else you include or exclude but do put in that I failed there. Other outlets presented Swift as a war resister and I assumed they had caught something I'd missed so we did in the early days as well. It was only when the sister of a war resister e-mailed the public account that I looked into it and saw that Swift had never identified herself as a war resister. That's why, now, we do not identify anyone as such unless they do. Once I found out that she had made no public statement on that issue, I should have written something explaining how this was hurting her coverage. I didn't and that was a failure on my part and there's no word for it but 'failure.' Congress betrayed her and betrayed their oversight role by not addressing what happened to her, what has happened to many women and some men who are serving, and I hold them accountable for that. No one should think I've given myself a pass on my own failure because I haven't. Nor will I. It will be my biggest regret when the site ends. I failed and failed completely. In terms of preventing that in the future, if something's wrong and it's hurting a cause, I'm not silent now. And the really bad thing there is I was old enough to know better and more than aware that when I look back on my own life the things I regret are not what I did or said in trying to change something but the times I was silent. Overall, if the communtiy rose or fell based on me, it would be an utter failure. Thankfully, members are very vocal and they do determine the scope of what we address and do hold me accountable. Any credit for anything worthwhile here should go to members. They repeatedly raise issues, provide highlights and say, 'You've got to address this!' That's where the bulk of anything that goes up originates from."

I asked Beth, the site's ombudsperson, for comments and she noted first that she no longer reads the public account. "I do understand how people could be upset about not getting a personal reply," she says. "I'm a member from back in the day where every e-mail got a reply. But I know from before I stopped reading the public account that enough e-mails come in that if everyone got a personal reply the site wouldn't have an entry that day."

"In terms of the site, I think Jim and C.I.'s comments address the public e-mails. In terms of C.I.'s comments, I agree that members determine what gets noted and what doesn't get noted. I do disagree with the self-grade because I think there's a ton of amazing stuff on any given day. Whether it makes you laugh or it's something that's just happened that appalls you, I think it's made an impression. I know we're not supposed to talk about this, and you can choose to include it or not, but the fact remains that only one war resister got attention from the Christian media and that came only after C.I. structured the argument around the war resister's beliefs. Kayla led a campaign to e-mail that entry to Christian outlets and that did get attention for the war resister. While I understand why C.I.'s gives a failing grade on Suzanne Swift, I think it's equally true that a major right-wing, Christian news outlet, that regularly applauds the illegal war, took the time to note a war resister in a sympathetic manner can be counted as a huge success. If I brought that up in a roundtable, C.I. would immediately say, 'Give the credit to Kayla for organizing that mass mailing.' But I'd give the credit to both of them. I'd also note that, every day, C.I. has been present. Sick or well, tired or rested, every day, C.I.'s been present. When you think of how few can make that claim with regards to anything, let alone Iraq, that's really amazing. I was one of the ones skeptical about Iraq becoming the sole focus. I actually was one of the few members to vote against the shift. For me, the reason was I didn't think there would be enough to warrant the focus because media interest had already fallen. It's only fallen more so but C.I.'s output has continued so obviously members were right about the shift. Jim especially mentioned the site going dark after the November elections so, before an avalanche of e-mails hits my account, I have no idea if that will happen or not. I know that is the ideal. I also know it may not take place. If it doesn't take place, I will happily continue to be a member of the community; however, I will be handing over my ombudsperson duties to someone else. It's been fun, but it's been a lot of work. I did a piece for a special gina & krista round-robin when we were all in D.C. that just tracked the way the entries here were put together. Mike's noted that before at his site and I got the idea to do it from him. Seeing the morning entries come together, the main thing there was watching C.I. work off several browsers to go through the e-mails and flip through several papers at once while calling friends in the press or in Iraq or just back from Iraq and say, 'This doesn't make sense. Walk me through it.' Those conversations are quick and they take place over and over. It's why The Common Ills hasn't been taken in by Happy Talk. I was exhausted just observing. Exhausted and nervous. Then came the snapshot and that still shocks me. C.I.'s dictating on one phone, listening on another and it's always, 'Okay, insert this ahead of ___' and yet, when you read it, it seems to flow and you think it was dictated in the order it appears and that everything in it was known before the first word was dictated. If the site continues after 2008, I would insist that, whomever the ombudsperson is, they make the time to observe the way the entries come together because it will save you a lot of time when you're answering questions in your columns. In terms of the morning entries, if something makes it in there it's generally due to several members bringing it up or a member who hasn't asked for something to be addressed in some time making a request. On the days I observed, I would ask questions up to the point where C.I. was on the phone. I know that C.I., from reading the papers, had an in idea of what the two morning entries would be about. Then came the e-mails and phone calls and, each day, everything changed. One day, a major topic became a minor one and, on the other days, the issues C.I. had planned to address never even made it in. When you're answering questions about why something made it in or didn't make it in, you really need to have observed the process. And it also helps you because you're aware of how quickly it moves. In terms of e-mails to the public account, there's just not time to reply to all and there's honestly no reason to reply to most. People may or may not like that explanation, but that is the reality."

Neither Cookie nor Buzzy works for the government now

Embattled State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard submitted his resignation Friday, forced out for allegedly impeding ongoing criminal investigations into the construction of a new, $740 million U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and security firm Blackwater Worldwide.
A State Department official said that Krongard had become a political liability, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, through aides, asked him this week to leave. The official insisted on anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak about personnel matters.
An abrasive attorney who once reportedly referred to himself as an "equal-opportunity abuser," Krongard came under fire from his own investigators and from a congressional panel for allegedly blocking probes into serious claims of wrongdoing in Iraq.
Those allegations include contract fraud and shoddy workmanship in the troubled Baghdad embassy and arms smuggling by North Carolina-based Blackwater.
Krongard initially vowed to fight the accusations against him. But his position collapsed at a House of Representatives hearing last month when he was asked whether his brother, former top CIA official Alvin "Buzzy" Krongard, had accepted a position on a Blackwater advisory board. Krongard first denounced what he said were "ugly rumors," then, after telephoning his brother, reversed himself.

The above is from Warren P. Strobel's "Embattled State Department inspector general resigns" (McClatchy Newspapers) and it's the end of the road for Cookie and Buzzy. For now anyway. But shed no tears, at least Iraq is 'safe,' right? No. In this morning's New York Times, Cara Buckley reports on two bombings yesterday:

Twenty-five people were killed Friday in the tumultuous Iraqi province of Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, when a suicide attacker detonated a bomb near the headquarters of a local committee of former insurgents working with American forces and a car bomb exploded at a checkpoint in Baquba.
Fifteen people were killed and 20 wounded in the suicide attack in the town of Muqdadiya.

Actually 16 people dead, the toll rose by one after Buckley filed. Bombings greeted Bobby Gates' arrival in Iraq, bombings took place while he was in the country and bombings have continued. Despite his happy talk. CNN reports that 6 people are dead and fourteen wounded from a bombing today in northern Iraq.

RadioNation with Laura Flanders, Sunday on Air America Radio stations, on XM satellite radio and streaming online at 1:00 pm, the program focuses on:

This week on RadioNation: Lefty Male Pundits Heart Huckabee?
This week on RadioNation: A forum discussion on the vote in Venezuela: a defeat for Chavez or a victory for Chavista democracy? What will the NIE on Iran slow down faster: Bush/Cheney's rush to war -- or Hillary Clinton? KATHA POLLITT and the ARKANSAS TIMES' MAX BRANTLEY on lefty male pundits who love Mike Huckabee, and a RadioNation exclusive with a former Iraqi translator now seeking asylum in the states.
Don't forget
RadioNation is heard on Air America Radio Sundays at 1 pm EST and on XM satellite and non-commercial stations nationwide. It can also be heard via podcast. To bring RadioNation to a station near you, write to
For more information, go to

If the love for Huckabee disgusts you, check out Rebecca from this week, Rebecca from last week and Cedric's "Conniff likes Huckabee, Huckabee likes rapists" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! HUCKABEE LOVES THE RAPISTS!".

The following community sites have updated since yesterday morning:

Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Cedric's Cedric's Big Mix;
Kat's Kat's Korner;
Betty's Thomas Friedman is a Great Man;
Mike's Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine's Like Maria Said Paz;
Wally's The Daily Jot;
Trina's Trina's Kitchen;
and Ruth's Ruth's Report

Next a press release from the Illinois Green Party, "BOARD OF ELECTIONS CLEARS WAY FOR GREEN PRIMARY ON FEB. 5:"

In their meeting Thursday, the Illinois Board of Elections dismissed objections to all four Green Party candidates for president: Jared Ball of Washington D.C., Howie Hawkins of New York, Kent Mesplay of California and Cynthia McKinney of California.

The decision by the board sets the stage for the state's first ever contested Green Primary. "Because we will have four candidates on the ballot for the same office, and thus a contested primary, every voter in the state will have the chance to pull a Green ballot on Feb. 5," says Phil Huckelberry, Chair of the ILGP Government & Elections Committee.

The Illinois Green Party became an established political party in 2006, when gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney earned more than 10% of the vote. As an established party, Greens will participate in the Feb. 5 primary, name
committeepeople, and can slate candidates to fill vacancies on the ticket.

"Voters in Illinois went to the polls in 2006 and demanded more options, beyond the two party system," says David Black, Secretary of the Illinois Green Party. "And we've delivered a number of excellent candidates in races all over the state."

In addition to the state board's decisions, the Cook County Board of Elections also threw out objections to the candidacy of Jerome Pohlen, a journalist and library trustee from Berwyn seeking the Green nomination for 3rd Congressional District.

Not all of the objections filed last month had favorable outcomes to the Illinois Green Party. The board voted unanimously to remove Scott Summers, attorney and McHenry Community College trustee, from the primary ballot for 16th Congressional
District, despite hearing arguments that the Board used a different formula to calculate Green signature requirements than it used to calculate Republican and Democratic requirements.

"Had the board used the same formula, I would have had more than enough signatures to get on the ballot," says Summers. "I think the political parties should be treated equally under the law."
Summers says that he may file suit in the case or will seek to be slated by the party following the primary.
Objections are still pending against congressional candidate David Kalbfleisch (10th district), as well as other candidates for state, local and committeeperson offices.

Kayla was the first to note Margaret Kimberley's "AIDS, the Black Disease" (Black Agenda Report) this week and chose the excerpt:

The numbers continue to be appalling. The Centers for Disease Control have adjusted data which indicated that approximately 40,000 new infections take place every year. The new estimate is between 58,000 and 63,000. Currently HIV infection rates are rising among those black men who acknowledge having sex with other men. Black men comprise 44% of all male HIV infections in the United States while black women make up 64% of all female HIV infected individuals in this country.
The disproportionate numbers of black HIV sufferers explains succinctly why the subject is treated with far less urgency than it was 25 years ago. AIDS in America has become a black disease. Like any other issue that effects black people more than any other group, it suddenly becomes a non-issue, unworthy of news print or broadcast time. To make matters worse, because the spread of HIV is associated with sexual contact and intravenous drug use, too many black Americans prefer denial instead of serious discussion.

The anointed leadership are no better than anyone else at speaking frankly to save lives. The website of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA) provides a telling example of this awful phenomenon. The home page contains this odd disclaimer, which helps explain why HIV rates in black Americans continue to be too high:
"This site contains HIV prevention messages that may not be appropriate for all audiences. If you are not seeking such information or may be offended by such materials, please exit this website."
Why is the NBLCA apologizing? One can infer that the "offensive" information is sexual in nature, but so what, HIV is a sexually transmitted disease. How can it be discussed without discussing sex? If the NBLCA can't discuss sex without reservation, they ought to put themselves out of business and make the failure complete. It is clear that gala fund raisers featuring well connected, celebrity board members haven't made much of an impact.

The e-mail address for this site is

Friday, December 07, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Friday, December 7, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the Canadian parlaiment's December 11th hearings on war resisters approach, IVAW's Justin Cliburn speaks in Dallas Sunday, Buzzy and Cookie remain brothers but one is now unemployed (don't cry, Blackwater will probably officially hire him now), bombings in Iraq get some media attention and more.
Staring with war resistance. November 15th, Iraq War resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey learned that the nation's Supreme Court would not hear their appeals.  As a result, the focus is now on getting the Canadian Parliament to address the situation.  On December 11th, the parliament will hear testimony from war resisters. Dustin Langley (Workers World) notes Hinzman's statements on the illegal war, "They said there were weapons of mass destruction.  They haven't found any.  They said Iraq was linked to international terrorist organizations.  There haven't been any links.  This was a criminal war.  Any act of violence in an unjustified conflict is an atrocity."  Cindy Sheehan (OpEdNews) urges people to utilize Courage to Resist's easy to mail or e-mail resources to allow the Canadian government to know you are watching and to support organizations supporting war resisters as well as supporting war resisters:
Support actual war resisters in Canada by sending them expense money. From my friend Ryan (I gave him and his wife money to get to Canada over two years ago):
In light of the recent Supreme Court denial in Canada, I (Ryan Johnson), My wife (Jen Johnson) and Brandon Hughey need help raising funds to travel to Ottawa to attend hearings before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, where War Resisters will be giving Testimony to the committee. At these hearings the committee will be deciding on whether or not to make a provision to allow war resisters to stay in Canada. This is one of our last chances to be able to continue living in Canada. We will be leaving December 7th because the hearings are December 11th, 2007 so we need to act fast. They may try to send guys back soon and we need to have a strong War Resister Presence. We appreciate all of the support and Want to thank all of you who can help.
Checks/money orders can be sent for Ryan, Jen and Brandon to:312 Tower Rd  Nelson, BC V1L3K6
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.  In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).
The voice of war resister Camilo Mejia is featured in Rebel Voices -- playing now through December 16th at Culture Project -- that's ten more days -- and based on Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's best-selling book Voices of a People's History of the United States. It features dramatic readings of historical voices such as war resister Mejia, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Malcom X and others will be featured. Musician Allison Mooerer will head the permanent cast while those confirmed to be performing on selected nights are Ally Sheedy (actress and poet, best known for films such as High Art, The Breakfast Club, Maid to Order, the two Short Circuit films, St. Elmo's Fire, War Games, and, along with Nicky Katt, has good buzz on the forthcoming Harold), Eve Ensler who wrote the theater classic The Vagina Monologues (no, it's not too soon to call that a classic), actor David Strathaim (L.A. Confidential, The Firm, Bob Roberts, Dolores Claiborne and The Bourne Ultimatum), actor and playwright Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride, Clueless -- film and TV series, Gregory and Chicken Little), actress Lili Taylor (Dogfight, Shortcuts, Say Anything, Household Saints, I Shot Andy Warhol, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, State of Mind) and actor, director and activist Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Beloved, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Rainmaker, Places In The Heart, Dreamgirls, Shooter and who recently appeared on Democracy Now! addressing the US militarization of Africa) The directors are Will Pomerantz and Rob Urbinati with Urbinati collaborating with Zinn and Arnove on the play. Tickets are $41.. The theater is located at 55 Mercer Street and tickets can be purchased there, over the phone (212-352-3101) or online here and here. More information can be found at Culture Project
In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers. 
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.  
March 13th through 15th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.
IVAW's South Central Region Coordinator Justin Cliburn will be speaking this Sunday in Dallas, Texas at the First Unitarian Church of Dallas, Raible Chapel (4015 Normandy Avenue, Dallas, TX 75205) at 10:30 am.  Cliburn served in Iraq (2005-2006) and this event is free and open to the public. 
In yet another sign of the failures of the puppet government, Eric Westervelt (NPR's Morning Edition) reports that the health ministry does not have a program to care for the wounded civilians or even to track how many there are.  The illegal war hits the five-year mark in March.  Puppet of the occupation Nouri-al Maliki and his initial cabinet were all in place by May of 2006.  And there is no system in place to track the wounded let alone to treat them.  Westervelt tells of 36-year-old, father of five Majid Hameed -- a victim of a bombing targeting his work place in March 2004  that left him burned and then, lack of treatment, left him with gangrene in both hands which spread and his arms were amputated to "just above the elbow" who must now attempt to provide for his family by hawking "trinkets" on the streets of Baghdad.  He had been a blacksmith and a security guard prior to the bombing.  The failed system really depends on international aid.  Westervelt doesn't make that point but that is what's going on.  Just as, in the US, Wal-Mart doesn't provide for their employees and expects government services to subsidize them, the Iraqi government leaves it to the NGOs to 'handle' the situation.  Hammed got the run around at the various government ministries, a private organization told him they would need both medical and police reports to treat him and the police station refused to assist him with those forms while the local council "laughed at me saying, 'We don't give letters to disabled people confirming they were hit by a car bomb.  We know nothing about it.  This is not our business'."  It's no one's business because the failed puppet government of Nouri al-Maliki is not one that serves Iraqis.  Why should the puppets show interest in the Iraqi people when the US government never has?
Big Oil's enable Iraq Development Program is announcing "positive signs" in Iraq's economy and sourcing it to Bayan Jubur al-Zubaydi (Iraq's Minister of Finance).  It's silly nonsense from a silly 'organization' that quotes the minister stating "the new budget allocated $10 billion dollars to subsidise ration card items and the salaries of government employees and pensioners."  Yes, we are back to the subsidies.  Note the amount.  How much of that alleged ten billion goes to saleries?  It's worth pondering because Reuters reports Abdul Falah al-Sudany (Iraq's Trade Minister) asserts that the massive reduction in subsidies that will kick in next month stem from a request for "$7 billion in next year's budget to distribute 10 basic items but received only $3 billion."  If both officials are telling the truth that would mean seven billion dollars was required to pay the puppet government.  That's a big payroll (especially when government workers make so little that IDP is trumpeting the fact that they've been granted income tax waivers) especially when you consider that "more than 60 percent of Iraq's population rely on the rations." Actually, that's the candied number, United Nation's agencies were estimating it was 80 percent and that was before the vast refugee (internal and external) began.   Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) explains, "The system under which all Iraqis are issued ration cards allowing them to buy 10 items -- sugar, flour, rice, powdered milk, cooking oil, tea, beans, baby milk, soap and detergent -- for a nominal fee".  The issue isn't money, the issue is the White House's lust for privatization that led to a tag sale in Iraq.  It's nothing but the (PDF format warning) same crap the US has been pushing for some time in the name of "economic rehabilitation and reform for Iraq."  This despite the fact that Steven Mann, Paul Bremer's boy,  was more interested (November, 2003) in "Building the market structure that promotes private business."  In September 2003, the United Nations' World Food Programme was sounding alarms over the crisis in Iraq and noting, "Any significant disruption of the public distribution system would have a severe negative impact on food access."  That was 2003.  Things have not gotten better and anyone who has trouble grasping that can just focus on the numbers then for external refugees (100,000) and internal ones (200,000).  Both categories are now in the millions (and combined account for over 4 million people).  The food program is not 'less needed' today, it's more needed. 
But the tag sale on Iraq is more important to the puppet government which works for the US government which -- apparently -- works for big business.  Hence, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes today, "UPI is reporting Iraq's Oil Ministry is preparing to sign deals for the country's largest oil fields even though the Iraqi government has failed to pass an Iraq oil law.  BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Conoco Phillips and other oil companies are all attempting to win contracts in Iraq.  Executives from BP and Shell are expected to be meeting soon with Iraq's Oil Minister.  Under Iraqi law, the Oil Ministry can sign service contract deals on its own.  But any production-sharing contracts would need parliamentary approval."  This follows Selina Williams reporting (for MarketWatch) earlier this week that BP PLC and Royal Duth Shell PLC were to meet Wednesday with Hussein al-Shahristanti (Iraqi oil minister) for oil discussions. UPI's Ben Landon offers "Big Oil's big dreams are close to coming true as Iraq's Oil Ministry prepares deals for the country's largest oil fields with terms that aren't necessarily what companies were hoping for but considered a foot in the door of the world's most promising oil sector."  Now who could have added additional strong-arming on that?  Has any US official recently visited Iraq?
Robert Gates holds the title of US Secretary of Defense.  Spinning the illegal war apparently comes under his job description (and comes naturally but who other than Robert Parry stepped up to call the nomination out when it mattered?).  Gates has left Iraq after his photo-op.  Thom Shanker (New York Times) quotes Gates declaring he was "encouraged" and that he was "feeling very good abou tthe direction of things in the security arena".  Gates was greeted with bombings and bombings continued through his brief stay.  Of course, bombings followed his exit.  Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "A suicide woman wearing an explosive belt detonated herself among the civilians near the center of the local committees in Al Mu'alimeen nieghborhood in Muqdadiyah town east of Baquba city around 9,30 am.  16 civilians were killed in the explosion (8 men, 5 women and 3 children) and 27 others were wounded (19 men, 4 children, 2 Sahwa members and 2 women)."  CNN, citing the police, identifies the bomber as Suhaila Ali and notes the bombing "took place outside a building that hosts meetings for local members of a so-called awakening council, whose members are opposed to al Qaeda and have formed an alliance with U.S. and Iraqi forces. . . . More than half of the dead and wounded in Friday's bombing were members of the awakening council, the Interior Ministry said."  CBS and AP note that two of Suhaila Ali's sons "were killed by Iraqi security forces" and quotes Ibrahim Bajalan ("head of Diyala provincial council") stating, "She wanted to avenge the killing of her two sons."  Alaa Shahine (Reuters) pieces together the immediate lead up to the bombing, "Witnesses said a woman walked up to the building, in a street full of shops, and began asking questions.  She detonated the vest she was wearing when people out shopping before Friday prayers began gathering around her."  UK's In The News notes, "In April the town was hit by another female suicide bomber who killed over 12 people at a police recruitment centre."  The Belfast Telegraph observes it was "the second [attack] in the space of 10 days carried out by female suicide bombers."  That refers to a November attack summarized then by M-NF as: "A female suicide bomber detonated an explosive laden suicide-vest, wounding seven U.S. soldiers and five Iraqi citizens in Baqubah, Nov. 27."   That was only one of the bombings in the Diyala Province.  AFP informs, "Hours later, a suicide car bomber rammed his vehicle into an army checkpoint at the nearby town of Al-Mansuriyah, killing 10 people and wounding eight, among them soldiers and members of another Awakening group, security officials said."  Alaa Shahine (Reuters) places the death toll at 10 ("seven Iraqi troops and three members of a local neighbourhood patrol") and eight injured. New York Times' Cara Buckley (at the company's International Herald Tribune) notes that the "three volunteers . . . had been working with the U.S. forces."  CBS and AP note that two bombings were "about 10 miles apart".  Cami McCormick (CBS News) interviews the newly returned to Fort Hood Army 3rd Brigade Combat Team who had been stationed in Diyala for fifteen months. 
McCormick: Many say they were stunned by how dangerous their deployment became.  
Spc. Cory Barton: I'd always heard from the guys that had been previous deployed and, you know,  family members and friends that had been deployed before, they'd always tell me about the major hot spots -- like Falluja, Najaf, Baghdad, Mosul and places like that  -- I've never heard anything about Baquba and then when we touched down, we touched ground in there and it was like an epiphany. 
McCormick: It was scary?  
Barton: Oh, it was a bad dream. 
It's not 'safer' in Iraq.  In other violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that today two police officers wounded in a Baghdad gun battle and Jabbar Khalaf ("chief of Rabi'aa police station") was shot dead in Mosul along with 4 other police officers  and that yesterday a farmer was shot dead outside Kirkuk, 1 Beshmarga Kurdish force intel officer was wounded (by "a pistol with a silencer) while 1 person was shot dead in Kirkuk and another wounded.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
If you missed it, it was time for the laughable Nation magazine to do another editorial on the illegal war.  Why they bothered is anyone's guess.  They accepted (without question) the bulk of the spin regarding the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk.  By contrast, the US Socialist Worker demonstrates needed common sense in their "Editorial: 'Mission Accomplished' again?" noting: "A new U.S. war lie -- concocted by the Bush administration, endorsed by the Democrats, embraced by the mainstream media -- has been deployed to justify continuing the occupation in Iraq.  The claim is that the Bush 'surge' of 30,000 U.S. troops to Iraq worked -- and is, at long last, bringing 'peace' and 'stability.'  . . . . But lurking behind the hype is a different reality -- one that reporters working in Iraq readily admit.  A Pew Research Center poll of U.S. reporters working in Iraq found that '[n]early 90 percent of U.S. journalists in Iraq say much of Baghdad is still too dangerous to visit' -- and that many believe U.S. media 'coverage has painted too rosy a picture of the conflict'."  As the editorial notes, imperialism is a bi-partisan goal with Republicans and Democrats embracing one another from across the aisle.  Which is why CBS and AP's bulletin should come as no surprise: "Democrats controlling Congress sent the most explicit signals yet on Thursday that they are resigned to providing additional funding for the war in Iraq before Congress adjourns for the year."  They're preparing to cave again.  And as CBS reports that $1 billion in equipment is missing in Iraq. There for-show stunt that found US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid claiming they woulnd't budge has collapsed.  As the Socialist Worker concludes, "The bipartisan Washington establishment is rallying around the consensus that the surge worked because it provides the excuses for continued occupation.  Opponents of the war need to expose this new war lie -- and insist that life in Iraq will only really improve when the U.S. gets out."
And those enlisting to assist don't just include The Nation but also NPR.  As Ruth noted yesterday, the public radio network "did 'investigative journalism' . . .  They discovered that the American people have lost interest in ending the illegal war.  How did they unearth this questionable claim?  They spoke to Congressional staffers.  They spoke to staffers of Congress members, the same Congress that has refused to end the illegal war.  It is truly a shock, at least to NPR, that said staffers might lie to take the heat off the people who sign their pay checks."  NPR's Day to Day wants you to believe that "Iraq has become less of an issue in the presidential campaign."  They need you to believe it having offered a two-hour Democratic presidential hopefuls 'debate' this week where, despite the US being engaged in a war, the 'moderators' never asked about the Iraq War.  As noted in Wednesday's snapshot, that 'reality' is far from reality: "In fact the latest poll found it the issue most noted by respondents -- you could take the second and third most cited issues (economy and healthcare), add them together and Iraq would still outrank them. But the media has lost interest.  Add another poll to the mix.  Faye Fiore (Los Angeles Times) reports on the Los Angeles Times - Bloomberg News poll which found, "Nearly six of every 10 military families disapprove of Bush's job performance and the way he has run the war, rating him only slightly better than the general population does."  Was the illegal war "worth it"?  All poll respondents state no by 60%, respondents from homes "with active military/vets" said no by 57% and homes "with military in Iraq/vets" said no by 60%.  Translation: America says the illegal war was not worth it.  To anser the Clash's musical question -- "Should I Stay or Should I Go" --  23% polled said bring them home "right away" (21% for homes with active military/vets and 27% for homes with military in Iraq/vets) while 41% say bring them home "within next year" (37% and 42% in the previous breakdown).  Bring the troops home?  64% say YES!  It's only in the lame media that wants to pretend the issue is no longer an issue.  And of course the media includes some on the 'left' because you can't pimp the war supporter Barack Obama so hard and still call for an end to the illegal war. (LAT piece is also at Common Dreams.)
Turning from the mercenaries in Congress to the mercenaries of Blackwater.  When last we checked in on Buzzy and Cookie (November 19th snapshot), Howard Cookie Krongard was remaining the US State Dept's inspector general but stated he was going to remove himself from pretending to provide oversight of Blackwater due to the fact that his brother A. B. Buzzy Krongard serves on the advisory board of Blackwater.  Previously, Cookie had tried to deny that Buzzy was working with Blackwater, deny in a Congressional hearing, but admitted it was true after requesting a break.  Despite Cookie's claims, Buzzy told Scott Shane (New York Times) that he had told his brother he was on the advisory board "a few weeks ago."  In an update, Reuters reports today that Cookie has announced he will resign from the State Department.  Jeremy Scahill (Common Dreams) provides an update on the latest to do with Blackwater and he will be back on Democracy Now! next week to discuss the latest regarding the mercenaries (I believe Monday).  Scahill concludes in his latest piece: "In short, Blackwater is moving ahead at full steam. Individual scandals clearly aren't enough to slow it down. The company's critics in the Democratic-controlled Congress must confront the root of the problem: the government is in the midst of its most radical privatization in history, and companies like Blackwater are becoming ever more deeply embedded in the war apparatus. Until this system is brought down, the world's the limit for Blackwater Worldwide--and as its rebranding campaign shows, Blackwater knows it."

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December 11th, the Canadian Parliament will hold hearings to determine whether or not to take action after the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the appeals of US war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. Marcia highlights Dustin Langley's "U.S. resisters continue fight for Canada asylum" (Workers World):

Today, soldiers refusing to fight in another U.S. war for empire face much greater challenges. Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear appeals from U.S. war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey seeking refuge in Canada. On Nov. 15, the War Resisters Support Campaign ( organized rallies across Canada in support of the right of U.S. war resisters to receive political asylum in Canada, a right supported by 65 percent of Canadians.
Hinzman and Hughey were among the first Iraq War resisters to arrive in Canada in 2004. They applied for political refugee status on the basis that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq is illegal under both U.S. and international law.
Hinzman said: "They said there were weapons of mass destruction. They haven't found any. They said Iraq was linked to international terrorist organizations. There haven't been any links. This was a criminal war. Any act of violence in an unjustified conflict is an atrocity."
Hinzman and Hughey claimed that according to the United Nations convention, they should not be prosecuted for refusing to fight in an illegal conflict. Canada’s Immigration Review Board and the Canadian courts, however, denied a hearing on these facts.
Gerry Condon, a Vietnam-era resister who lived in Canada for three years, now works with Project Safe Haven ( ). Condon said, "While the refusal of the Supreme Court of Canada to hear the appeals is very disappointing, the struggle for sanctuary in Canada is being stepped up. All along, we have known that a political solution was ultimately what would be needed. While the sanctuary campaign ramps up in Canada, we in the U.S. can seize this moment to become much more supportive."
On Dec. 6, Canada's Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration will be holding hearings on the issue of allowing U.S. war resisters to stay in Canada.
The War Resisters Support Campaign is asking supporters in the U.S. to join the appeal campaign launched by Courage to Resist in support of asylum for resisters, located online at For more information, go to
Articles copyright 1995-2007 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Meanwhile, as Robert Gates goes spinning off into the ether on his own lies, Warren P. Strobel's "State Dept. retains manager of troubled embassy project" (McClatchy Newspapers) sheds a little reality on the lack of accountability and oversight:

A State Department project manager banished from Iraq by the U.S. ambassador and under scrutiny by the Justice Department continues to oversee the construction of the much-delayed new American embassy in Baghdad from nearby Kuwait, State Department officials disclosed Thursday.
James L. Golden, a contract employee, is still managing the $740 million project, said Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy, the department's top management official.
"Mr. Golden is still . . . our project manager, and still is working with the contractor, at their base in Kuwait," Kennedy said.
One State Department official with detailed knowledge of the unopened embassy expressed outrage that his superiors haven't replaced Golden.
"I find it absolutely amazing that State senior management doesn't seem to think it a trifle odd that two people under investigation . . . are still making all the management decisions under this same contract," the official said in an e-mail. The official asked for anonymity because he feared retaliation by his superiors.

This week (tonight in most markets) on PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio:

How does a democracy decide to wage war?
Next time on NOWAt 8:30 pm (check local listings) on Friday, December 7 - the very day
Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese warplanes 66 years ago - David Brancaccio interviews filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick and the Rev. James Forbes Jr. about Burns and Novick's epic World War II documentary "The War".
Looking to the past as a mirror to the present, the four discuss how the waging of war intersects with our notion of democracy.
"It's incumbent upon a democratic society to evaluate what the arithmetic is -- the cost of war," Burns tells the group.
Sharp insight about the year's must-see documentary, and the modern lessons contained therein. Next on NOW.


A Web-Exclusive NOW on the News: Did Romney Win Over Skeptics?
In a NOW web-exclusive interview, BeliefNet politics editor Dan Gilgoff shares his insight into the effect of Mitt Romney's speech on religion, the role of faith in the 2008 presidential race, and how America's faithful are reacting.

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