Monday, September 22, 2008

US military announces another death in Iraq

Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldier died as a result of a small-arms fire attack on his patrol at approximately 11 a.m. in Baghdad." The death raises the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4169 with 18 for the month of September thus far.

Meanwhile Reuters notes 2 dead from a Baghdad car bombing (five more injured), 1 dead from a Baghdad mortar attack (four wounded), two wounded from a second Baghdad car bombing, 1 corpse discovered in Suwayra and, dropping back to yesterday, 2 brothers shot dead in Mosul (a third wounded).

AP reports that First Lt Michael C. Behenna's court-martial began yesterday and that he is alleged to have carried an Iraqi prisoner "to a remote desert location," disrobed the prisoner, shot the prisoner "in the head and chest and then watching as another soldier set fire to the body with an incendiary grenade". Appearing at the court-martial was "Harry," an Iraqi translator, who states he was an eye witness to the alleged crimes.

Mohammed Abbas (Reuters) examines Moqtada al-Sadr and his movement and offers some opinions:

Meanwhile, rival political groups are consolidating power, while a series of crackdowns by an increasingly assertive Maliki has forced the Mehdi Army from many of its former bastions.
Attacks on Shi'ites by Sunni militants, which drove many to Sadr's militia for support, have plunged. Criminal elements among the Mehdi Army's ranks have also frustrated Sadr.

Turning to the US presidential race, Brandon notes this from Team Nader:

No Debate About It - A Letter to the Editor


No Debate About It - A Letter to the Editor .

Another great example of how an individual can help us break the media blockade and hold the media accountable to the people. It was published in the Chicago Sun-Times on September 18th.

No debate about it: We need to hear more viewpoints

September 18, 2008
by Robert Radycki

My Polish-born wife tells me stories about her father in post-World War II Poland that Americans should hear.

He used to put a blanket around the door to their apartment to listen to "Radio Free Europe'' and "Voice of America'' in the early morning or late evening. The radio had to be muffled so no one could hear. If you were caught listening by the Stalinist government, it was off to jail or to a mental hospital.

Yet Poles defied their masters. There was the fire in their bellies to seek the truth.

I am a native-born Chicagoan of Polish descent. After taking a trip to Europe as a college student, I decided to learn the Polish language. I'm glad I did, because recently I read in the Polish language paper Dziennik Zwiazkowy about an "Open the Debates" rally with Ralph Nader in Chicago's old Polish immigrant neighborhood on the Northwest Side. My grandparents lived in that neighborhood when they first arrived from Poland, and I proudly returned there on a Saturday to again seek the path to a stronger democracy.

Unlike my father-in-law, I didn't have to use a blanket to listen to the speaker, but I did have to read about this rally in a foreign language and not in my native English. I read about the rally not in the Chicago mainstream media but in a small ethnic newspaper.

Why do I have to go to alternative sources to seek the truth? Whatever happened in this country to Greek and British ideals of democracy? Have we sold out our souls for the almighty dollar?

Americans proudly declare, '"free speech'' but what about, "free access?'' Will I someday have to put a blanket over the door here in Chicago to listen to a foreign radio station in a foreign language so I can get the truth?

Many Americans this election year will never get to hear the issues presented to them free from the framing of vested interests. This is because the organization that sponsors our presidential debates was founded and continues to be run by former heads of the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee. This Commission on Presidential Debates deprives voters of an accurate choice and robust debate.

When the CPD took over, in 1987, the president of the League of Women Voters, the organization that had previously sponsored the debates, had this to say:

"The League of Women Voters is withdrawing its sponsorship of the presidential debates . . . because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter. It has become clear to us that the candidates' organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and answers to tough questions. The league has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.''

I commend the Chicago Sun-Times for endorsing the Citizens' Debate Commission. This initiative consists of national civic leaders from the left, center and right of the political spectrum who are committed to maximizing voter education. The spirit and promise of America still lives, but it gets harder and tougher to seek it out.

Open the debates!

Robert Radycki is a retired computer programmer who lives in Rogers Park, Chicago, IL.


Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate. Cynthia McKinney is the Green Party presidential candidate and this is her "Seize The Time!" (McKinney-Clemente '08):

We the people must now seize the time! We have always had the capability of determining our own destiny, but for various reasons, the people failed to elect the leaders who provided the correct political will. There was always some corporate or private special interest that stood in the way of the public good. And they always seemed to have the power of the purse to throw around and influence public opinion or our elected officials. The very foundation of the U.S. economy is crumbling underneath our feet. This represents a unique moment in U.S. history and we must now seize the time for self-determination--for health care, education, ecological wisdom, justice, and all the policies that will make a difference in the lives of the people including an end to all wars, including the drug war!

The crisis was staved off for a time for some of our major finance engines when they were able to obtain bridge funding from certain sovereign wealth funds. That option grows increasingly dim as The Federal Reserve is becoming the lender of last resort. This means that the people are becoming the owners of the primary instruments of U.S. capital and finance. This now means that the people have a say in how these instruments are to be used and what their priorities ought to be. The people should now have more say in how their tax dollars are spent and what the priorities of government and the public sector must be. We the people must now set our demands to ensure and promote the public good.

Now, as we ponder the importance of this moment to do good and serve the needs of the people, some politicians have already figured out their answer for us: win or steal the next election, prepare for more war, and leave it to others to try and figure out what to do next. While banks are failing all around us and the U.S. taxpayer is drenched with news of billion-dollar bailouts for *selected* companies, the Congress, which has utterly failed in its twin responsibilities of setting policy and Executive Branch oversight, plans to adjourn instead of setting new policies; lessening the impact of the economic freefall on innocent victims; or stopping war, expansion of war, new war, and occupation.

In a dizzying turn of recent events, we have all witnessed the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage providers, investment banks Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, and insurer American International Group (AIG), and other companies. So far, at least eleven banks have filed for bankruptcy this year. The case of the AIG bailout is particularly curious as Merrill Lynch was denied taxpayer largesse. I wonder if AIG was the selected company for bailout because of its relationship to the U.S. intelligence community and what others would discover if AIG's books were opened in an audit. The last person to get close to AIG and its shady operations was Eliott Spitzer.

But some more fundamental issues must be explored here, relating to the underlying assumptions that have guided U.S. political and economic activity, particularly over the last eight years.

The Bush Administration's "anything goes, just don't get caught" attitude has set the tone for what we are witnessing today. To be sure these problems didn't start in January of 2001, but they sure were allowed to accelerate during the George W. Bush Administration. For example, what tone was set when the Administration shipped $12 billion to Paul Bremer's provisional government in Iraq in cash on wooden pallets for Iraq reconstruction? No wonder $9 billion of it was "lost." What I'm constantly reminded of is that the money didn't just vanish, somebody got it. Now it's up to us to find out who!

However, the Administration's blatant disregard for good governance, the rule of law, standards of moral and ethical conduct, and even etiquette, when coupled with a laissez-faire, "go-along-to-get-along" attitude from Congress meant that no holes were barred and no hands were on the deck--a sure prescription for disaster.

In my reading over the course of the last few years, I had to become somewhat conversant with the language of the new economy: bundled mortgages, securitization, SPEs, SIVs, derivatives. But in addition to the old concepts that always seemed to be with us--predatory lending, redlining, no affordable housing amid "the housing bubble,"-- it soon became clear that basically folks had figured out a way to make money off of a ticking time bomb. Kind of like prisons for profit. And even though the Enron scandal was supposed to have cleaned up a lot of this, unfortunately, even Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac regularly engaged in some of these practices and that's why you and I own them today. I believe it is true that the very foundations of the U.S. economy and conventional political behavior have been shaken. Now is not the time for business as usual. And although this is by no ways exhaustive, here are a few things that I think the Democratic-led Congress could work on now instead of adjourning:

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;

10. fairly tax corporations, denying federal subsidies to those who relocate jobs overseas repeal NAFTA.

And since the Congress plans to adjourn early and leave these problems to The Federal Reserve, The Federal Reserve should operate in the interests of the U.S. taxpayer and not the interests of the private, international bankers that it currently represents. This, of course means that The Federal Reserve, too, must undergo a fundamental ownership and mission change.

This crisis does not have to be treated as merely a "market correction," or the result of a few rotten apples 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 revisited upon them or the next generation tomorrow. But sadly, instead of affirmative action being taken in this direction, the Bush Administration ratchets 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!

Please visit and read our platform. If you like it, please make a donation so we can spread the news and . . . seize the time!

Though McKinney and Nader are currently shut out of the debates, the Illinois Daily Chronicle reports that 'Cynthia' will be at one debate:

Kishwaukee College has scheduled a mock presidential debate for Wednesday, Oct. 1, according to a news release. The debate will be held from 1-2 p.m. in Jenkins Auditorium and will feature students portraying presidential candidates Barack Obama, Cynthia Ann McKinney and John McCain.
The students have become well-versed in their respective candidate’s campaign platforms, the release said. The students will spend 40 minutes answering questions from moderator Jaime Long, Kishwaukee College communications instructor and coach of the college’s forensics team, then will spend 20 minutes answering audience questions submitted at the beginning of the debate.
The event is free and open to the public.

Staying with students and the presidential race, Jack Willems' "Nader encourages political participation in university students" (Arkansas Traveler) reports on a Nader campus event last week:

"Sometimes, students will smile at me and say, 'We're not turned on to politics,'" Nader said. "Look at history. If you are not turned on to politics, politics will turn on you."
While not being the Green Party candidate, Nader was invited to speak at the university by the Campus Greens, said Mark Swaney, adviser to the Campus Greens. Cynthia McKinney is the Green Party candidate, but because neither candidate is likely to win, they are not worried about splitting the vote, he said.
"If there are several voices running but they are saying the same thing, that's good," Swaney said.
Nader attacked the bailouts of investment banks by the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department in recent weeks. The bailouts were conducted without any congressional hearings and without any concern that the government had any authority to do this, Nader said. The recent mortgage crisis is the direct result of repealing the Glass-Stegal Act in 1999, which has created "the greatest financial collapse in American history," Nader said.
"In 1929, the bankers were jumping out windows. Today, they are jumping into golden parachutes," he said.

Chris Herz reports on a weekend McKinney campaign event:

A black woman, former congressional representative Ms. Cynthia A. McKinney spoke many wise and prescient words ... she surely revealed herself as she is: One of the most carefully trained and fully experienced analysts of the existing foreign policies of the USA, one of its fiercest critics and one of the most talented
designers of what, in the unlikely event of a sudden outbreak of sanity here, might be a fit replacement for the present of one murderous rampage followed by another.
She's a person of much more advanced scholarship and insight than her colleague, Condoleeza Rice, presently leader of our US foreign policy ministry, but indeed the impoverishment of the USA is measured NOT by the meltdown of its most famous financial institutions, but rather by the poverty of the solutions being advanced for the repair of the mess.

As Ralph and Cynthia are shut out of the debates (thus far) and shut out of the media, most in the media play dumb. An exception is Bob Cuddy who offers "What about the other candidates?" (San Luis Obispo Tribune):

Peter Camejo finally made the front page. All he had to do to get there is die. Camejo, who died Sept. 14 at age 68, was a perennial third-party candidate. He was the Green Party candidate for vice president in 2004, with Ralph Nader topping the ticket.
You've probably never heard of Camejo, even though many Green Party ideas are now in the mainstream. And this illuminates one of the many problems with the way we elect presidents in the United States: We shut out all voices except those from the Democrat and Republican parties.
By "we," I mean the mainstream news media -- especially the electronic media -- in collaboration with the two political parties, who tightly control the debate format.
This is something to worry about as we enter the quadrennial presidential and vice presidential debates. Democrat Barack Obama will square off against Republican John McCain three times (Friday, Oct. 7 and Oct. 15), and their would-be vice presidents, Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, will go head to head once (Oct. 2).
They will do so before a national audience in the tens of millions.
Libertarian Bob Barr, the Green Party’s Cynthia McKinney, and Nader, an Independent, will have no such forum.
All three are on enough ballots -- more than 40 states -- to win the Electoral College.

And Austin Cassidy's Independent Political Reporter notes "Mike Gravel and Ralph Nader endorse candidate for Congress in PA:"

Independent candidate for US Congress John Murphy, running in Pennsylvania’s 16th District, has been endorsed by both former Senator Mike Gravel and independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Mike Gravel also ran for president this year as a Democrat and a Libertarian. Conversely, John Murphy endorsed Ralph Nader and helped in the effort to get him on the ballot.

If you're wondering about this morning's entries focusing mainly on wire services, you haven't opened a paper today. Search in vain for the Iraq coverage. I can't think of a day where it's ever been this bad before.

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