Thursday, October 14, 2010

US soldiers remain in Iraq

As far as combat tours go, Scott's unit's has been underwhelming. The troops have been here entirely too long, with far too little to do, but the notion that they're finished with combat is misguided. In fact, they laugh at the irony that the vast majority of the action they've seen has come after the Aug. 31, 2010, decree that brought U.S. combat operations to an official end.
First there was the Aug. 17 suicide bombing right outside of their base, an incident known to the troops as the "suicide pants" bombing. An insurgent walked into the middle of a recruiting drive for the Iraqi security forces and blew himself up. The explosive material was inside his pants, taped with ball bearings to maximize the carnage. More than 40 people were killed that day. Eighteen days later, a team of five fighters stormed the gates of Old MoD. Two were killed just outside the gate, and the driver set off a bomb in the car. The two insurgents who got inside took prisoners in a building, beginning a three-hour standoff before detonating themselves on the third floor. Seven Iraqi army soldiers died.

The above is from Iraq War veteran Nate Rawlings' "Return to Baghdad: U.S. Troops Find Noncombat Pretty Violent" (Time magazine). The Iraq War has not ended. It's probably a good idea for people to grasp that, especially for those who are advocating on behalf of something. We're being kind and not noting the two advocates who wrote a column this week advocating for their own personal charity of choice (a good cause, no question) and got a pushback from the parents of service members over their (false) claim that US troops were out of Iraq. The two went back and fixed their (false) claim and apologized but they were trying to make an appeal. All they did was turn people off. A newspaper column has a very short shelf life and if you're trying to reach someone then you better not offend them. A charity of choice suffered because two advocates were either unaware that US troops remain in Iraq or weren't careful enough with their wording. Regardless, what might have been an effort to reach people and get the word out on a cause instead resulted in anger, hurt feelings and a wall going up between them and their readers. There is a war going on and when you ignore that, you're not just ignoring the 50,000 still in Iraq, you're also ignored their friends and family. As has been repeatedly noted throughout the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the number of Americans personally touched directly by the war has been very small. That doesn't mean you should ignore it, that doesn't mean you can ignore it.

At times, it appears there's more reality on the wars in the newspapers columns of Dear Abby, Hints from Heloise, etc. than in the so-called reporting (which usually avoids Iraq altogether). Ask Amy (Washington Post) today features a military wife.

DEAR AMY: My husband will soon finish a fairly long deployment with the military in Iraq. I can't wait for him to come home.
The problem is my husband's mother. Her plan is to greet him at the airport as soon as his flight lands, which is fine (I guess). However, she is also trying to make plans for that day for everyone (my husband's immediate family) to get together and welcome him home at a party at one of our homes.
My husband and I agree that we'd like to spend some alone time together before he gets inundated with company. He wants to have some time to wind down after all of the traveling.
I've tried telling her this in those terms, but she is being very insistent.
Normally I would tell him that he needs to talk to her himself, but he's already stressed out enough and she's been calling me about it. Please help! -- Frustrated Daughter-in-Law

Use the link to find out what advice Amy gives the woman.

The Iraq War is not over. Lynne Terry (Oregonian) reports 8 members of the Oregon Army National Guard are deploying for Iraq. Heather Turner (KEZI) notes this will be Alpha Co. 61 Aviation's third tour in Iraq (they've also had one tour in Afghanistan). AP adds that 600 more members of the 600 Oregon Army National Guard are scheduled for an Iraq deployment in November. Also deploying is 58-year-old Dr. Martin Lesser. Jeanette DeForge (Republican) quotes the doctor stating, "He [the recruiter] told me there was a shortage of medical doctors and it was uncomfortable for me to hear that we were not getting enough health care for soldiers. It was embarrassing. It hurt."

Meanwhile Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) reports, "The United States denounced a Dutch court's decision Wednesday to grant an early release to a Dutch citizen who had been sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiring to kill Americans in Iraq." Martijn van der Starre (Bloomberg News) adds, "The Rotterdam district court ordered that the time Wesa al- Delaema has spent in detention in both the U.S. and the Netherlands will be “completely reduced from his prison term,” it said in a statement on its website today. "

Last night, Kat offered "Stevie Nicks, Peggy Lipton, Joanna Newsom," Ann offered "What's the gender?," Trina posted "Voting," Mike posted "Chuck and the Dems," Betty blogged "Laura Wells, Green Party candidate for governor," Stan blogged "No Ordinary Family," Marcia offered "David Swanson, David Lindorff, you ought to be ashamed," Rebecca offered "terry o'neill speaks out," Ruth posted "Senator Kirsten Gillibrand" and Elaine journaled "Nobel Peace Prizes." Currently only Wally and Cedric show up on the permalinks:

And we'll close with this:

John Anthony La Pietra for
Fairer, Better Elections
Secretary of State * Green Party
386 Boyer Court * Marshall, MI 49068

News Release: October 13, 2010

La Pietra Working with County Clerks to
Prepare for Analysis of Voting Conditions
Gathering Information on Precincts, Polling Places, Voter Counts
to Be Ready When Citizens Send in Survey Responses After Election

Will Follow Up Early Next Week, Then
Publicize Status of Counties' Responses

Next, Will Ask for Lists of Official Write-In Candidates,
Post on Website After Oct. 22 Filing Deadline to
Make Elections Fairer, Better for Them and Voters

John Anthony La Pietra -- the Green Party of Michigan’s candidate for Secretary of State -- has been sending out the news of his voting-conditions survey for

months to people across the state. Last week, he focused on 83 people in every

part of Michigan: the county clerks.

He asked their offices for updated information identifying each precinct or

absent-voter counting board (AVCB), where their polling places are, and how

many voters are registered in each precinct. And almost half have sent John

information already -- or promised to do it once last-minute registrations and

changes are in the system.

John's request to the clerks is posted on his campaign Website, at

It was dated October 4 -- the last day for voters to register and still be on the rolls at the polls on November 2. But John knew that it might take a while to get some of that information into Michigan's Qualified Voter File. So he assured the clerks, "I understand that this is a busy time for you -- and I do not need your precinct list immediately, since I plan to use it together with information I will be receiving from voters on or after Election Day.

"Still, the sooner I do have your lists in hand, the better prepared I can be when the survey responses come in," he added.

John plans to give counties the rest of this week and part of next week to finish gathering up their latest registration information and respond to his request before posting a general status report on what responses he has received from which counties.

A Positive Response from Clerks So Far -- Mostly
33 counties have already answered all three of John's questions. A few more have pledged to send (or finish sending) him information at various times before the election. Some have sent partial or not-yet-updated information, or links to where part or all of the information is already posted online.

One county answered that it didn't have any of the information itself, and told John to contact the local clerks. About a third of that county's cities and townships have responded so far.

Another county sent a list of precincts and their polling places, but said that John would have to pay $25 and make two visits to the clerk's office to buy and pick up a data disc to get registered-voter counts for those precincts.

John pointed out

* that the county would be gathering the information
itself to prepare for the election, so there was
no reason to charge for labor;

* that a data disc would only be necessary for an
actual list of the voters themselves, which
he wasn't requesting; and

* that the results of the survey will be made public
and given to the winning candidate for Secretary
of State, so any fees could be waived anyway under
the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.

This county is now reportedly handling the request more formally through its FOIA Coordinator.

Still Trying to Urge Voters to Report
on Their Local Voting Conditions, Too
John has also been taking every campaign opportunity to invite voters to join in the survey by observing their own precincts -- “so we’ll have the information we need to equip and staff polling places better, and more fairly, giving us shorter lines and more time to vote.”

A printable page of John's Survey of Voting Conditions is posted on his campaign Website, at

It asks voters who go to their polling places on November 2 to look around -- and notice and write down a few simple facts:

* How many voting stations, standing and sit-down,
the precinct has. (And how many more would fit
in the polling place.)

* How many touch-screen voting machines there are.
(This refers to the AutoMARK systems made available
mostly for voters with disabilities, though anyone
may choose to use them.)

* How many vote-counting machines (or "tabulators")
there are.

* How many poll-workers ("election inspectors") there
are, and whether there's any room for more workers.

* What time they went to vote, how long they stay at
the polling place, and how long voting itself takes

* How long the lines are.

The survey page also has spaces for voters to report their city or township, the number of their precinct, their polling place (and whether or not it is shared with other precincts) -- and, if they can find out from their clerk or the poll-workers, the number of voters registered in the precinct.

Since his October 4 letter to the county clerks, John has renewed that invitation to the people

* at an AAUW candidate forum in Kingsford on the 7th;

* after a workshop on alternative voting methods
sponsored by the chapter of the ACLU at John's
postgraduate alma mater, Cooley Law School,
yesterday; and

* in a telephone interview with Andy Robins of WMUK
in Kalamazoo today.

John also issued that invitation in a videorecorded "interview" September 30 at Detroit Public Television (DPTV) for the Website. The videorecording has now been posted on MiVote's page about John's campaign:

along with a brief introduction, contact information, and a link to his campaign's homepage:

The DPTV interview questions were provided in advance; John's prepared answers are posted as part of the "Questionnaires and Answers" area of his campaign Website, at

Helping the Voice of the People Express Itself Better --
Letting Voters Know Who They Can Write In and Have it Count
John is going to write the county clerks again next week on another subject, too.

4pm on Friday, October 22 is the deadline for anyone who wants to be an official write-in candidate and have votes for him or her counted. And each precinct will get a list of write-in candidates who have filed the paperwork to be official -- they have to, in order to know which write-in votes they have to count and which they don't have to count.

But, under the current administration's interpretation, the names on those lists aren't available to voters at the polls. The list isn't posted next to the sample ballot -- and even if you ask the election inspectors at your polling place, they're not allowed to tell you. You have to go to your local clerk’s office and ask *there*. “And who gets out of line to go do that?” John asks rhetorically.

John believes this is unfair to those candidates -- and it's unfair to deny voters full information about all of their choices. So even before he takes office, he's going to do something about it.

He will send another Freedom of Information Act request to all of the county clerks -- and the Bureau of Elections -- asking for the names of all officially filed write-in candidates and the offices they are running for. All the information he gets back will be posted on his campaign Website. So will contact information for the counties -- so citizens can thank the offices that provided write-in lists, and make their own inquiries to the ones that didn't.

"Michigan's elections need to be fairer and better for everyone," John argues. "Especially the voters -- we're who elections are for. And if our elections officials are denying us public information about legitimate candidates at precisely the time when we could use it, that's bad and unfair for everyone.

"It's a clear example of protecting established parties and interests against even the possibility of having to recognize a protest vote. And that's the exact opposite of what an election is supposed to be -- the voice of the people, a chance for us to express what we want our government to be."

For more information on John’s other ideas for non-partisan administration of fairer, better elections for the people, read his “discussion paper” on that subject at

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends