Thursday, October 16, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, October 16, 2008.  Chaos and violence continued, the US military announces two more deaths, the crisis in Mosul continues and there's news or not news on the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement.
At the US State Dept today, Sean McCormack held a press briefing and was immediately pressed on the issue of the treaty masquerading as SOFA.  "Nothing new on the SOFA," McCormack declared.  "We'll just get that out of the way. . . . Nothing new. . . . No, I have nothing -- I have nothing new to report.  The process continues."  He did say that US Secretary of State Condi Rice had been on the phone "with some of the Iraqi leaders yesterday" and listed the ones he believed she spoke with but stated he would provide a list later.  The list provided had Rice speaking with KRG President Masoud Barzani, Iraq President Jalal Talabani, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's Shi'ite vice president Adil Abd al-Mahdi and Iraq's Sunni vice president Tariq al-Hashami.  McCormack repeatedly stressed the SOFA such as when asked if Rice was focused on any other issue and he responded, "The focus -- her focus is on moving this SOFA process forward."  Asked if there was a Plan B, McCormack replied, "We're focused on moving the SOFA process forward." Tossed out the possibility of an extension of the UN mandate (due to expire December 31st), McCormack responded, "I'm not aware of any serious contemplation of anything other than getting the SOFA done on our side.  Again, I don't have perfect knowledge, but I'm not aware of any contemplation of anything other than getting the SOFA done.  Asked if there was the possibilities of other options, McCormack replied, "I think the option is get the SOFA done."
Alissa J. Rubin and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) detail the draft of the treaty between the White House and the puppet of the occupation (passed off as a SOFA) being whispered about but notes that there are many hurdles and also notes, "The Iraqis did not provide details about the language of the draft, and it is unclear whether it says the pullout would be based on conditions on the ground." Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman tells the paper, "In Parliament it will face a lot of opposition. Some of the nationalists won't like it and some other groups, too. They won't oppose it as such, by they will say they don't like this article or that article. Maybe it will pass, but it will take some time."  Richard Beeston and Deborah Haynes (Times of London) explain, "The deal, yet to be approved by Iraqi leaders, the Cabinet and parliament, must be in place by December 31, when the existing UN Security Council mandate expires.  An agreement between the two sides would open the way for a separate arrangement to allow 4,000 British Forces and other smaller coalition members to remain in Iraq."
At the Pentagon today, spokesperson Geoff Morrell declared that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates "is in the process of consulting closely with members of Congress, those who have jurisdiction over this building.  And, in fact, he has begun making a number of phone calls today to committee leaders and is intent on fulfilling his pledge to them to consult with them on this document before it is finalized."  Two things, Democrats head all committees.  They are "committee leaders."  They can allow anything to go through or be stopped cold.  Second, what Gates is doing is certainly admirable; however, it does not pass for "advise and consent" as outlined in the Constitution.  From the March 6th snapshot:
Congress held several hearings today and we're noting two.  Background for the first,  Reuters reported this morning, "The U.S. military has authority to conduct combat operations in Iraq beyond the end of this year, even though a United Nations mandate for force ends then, a State Department official said on Wednesday.  David Satterfield, the State Department's coordinator for Iraq, said Congress had authorized U.S. combat in Iraq back in 2002, and the Bush administration did not believe it needed to seek 'explicit additional authorization' from Congress for U.S. combat beyond the end of this year."  Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) reported that "[t]he Bush administration yesterday adavanced a new argument for why it does not require congressional approval to strike a long-term security agreement with Iraq, stating that Congress had already endorsed such an initiative through its 2002 resolution . . . Rep. Gary L. Ackerman (D-N.Y.), whose questions at a House hearing Tuesday elicted the administration statement, described it as an 'open-ended, never-ending authority for the administration to be at war in Iraq forever with no limitations.'   The conditions of 2002 no longer exist, he said."  This afternoon the US House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia held a hearing that David Satterfield again showed up for (but couldn't really answer anymore than on Tuesday) as did Mary Beth Long the Asst. Secretary of Defense for International Affairs.
Satterfield attempted repeatedly to claim everything was a hypothetical and refuse to answer.  A lively exchange took place between Gary Ackerman and Satterield.  Asked specific questions, Satterfield declared, "I will respond more formally to that question subsequent to this hearing" leading Ackerman to ask, "When will we hold that hearing?"  At another point Satterfield attempted to hide by declaring, "I'm not a constitutional expert" leading Ackerman to respond, "Neither is anyone else" in the administration "apparently." 
The basic principles here (outlined many times before) is whether or not Bully Boy and Nouri al-Maliki can enter into a treaty without Congressional/Parliamentary approval.  The constitutions for both the United States and Iraq say "NO!"  But that hasn't stopped the White House from attempting to circumvent the US Constitution.  As Ackerman noted when Satterfield repeatedly declared questions "hypotheticals," "The Constitution is a document.  It is not a hypothetical."  Her futher noted, "The problem with the administration is that it thinks the Constituion is optional."  Ackerman noted that everything was undefined -- now and in the lead-up to the illegal war.  He noted that now Iraq was apparently a 'threat' to the US in some of the vague responses from Satterfield and that "threat" seems to change from moment to moment leading Satterfield to snap "No, Mister Chairman," the administration has clearly defined threats. Ackerman asked, "Is it this adminstration's belief that you have ongoing authorization in perpetuity?" and "Is Iraq about to attack the United States?" Ackerman noted that it appeared the White House had redefined the mission in Iraq so that "as long as there is trouble in Iraq" the US must remain in "a never ending process". 
As the committee told Sattefield, it appeared he arrived with an attitude of he would talk about what he wanted to and not answer the questions posed.  In a milder but still comical moment, Mary Beth Long attempted to compare the agreement Bully Boy and al-Maliki are trying to impose with agreements the US has with Belize. Bill Delahunt noted that nothing with Belize talks "about search and destroy actions" such as what takes place in Iraq and Long had to admit that they didn't.  US House Rep Rosa DeLauro was brought into the meeting with the approval of other committee members (she's not a member of the subcommitte) and she noted that this wasn't a "typical" SOFA agreement and that "we should not rush to approve" it, that it is in the best interests of both countries not to rush.  As Satterfield continued to obsfucate, DeLauro noted that, "We're not going to get any straight answers on this."  While Rep Bill Delahunt had noted earlier -- when Satterfield again attempted to propose a closed door briefing -- "The American people deserve to hear what you have to say."  The hearing ended with Ackerman having extracted the promise that Satterfield would have answers to the questions asked no later than three p.m. Friday. 
Reps DeLauro and Delahunt have led in Congress on this issue and they addressed the issue in  "The Wrong Partnership for Iraq" (Washington Post):
The Post argued that barring a "formal commitment to defend Iraq from external aggression," congressional approval of the agreement is not required. Yet constitutional scholars testifying before the oversight subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee have stated that "the authority to fight" that the administration seeks from Iraq does indeed require congressional approval. Requiring international legal approval of combat is what makes this agreement anything but what the administration incorrectly calls it: a "status of forces agreement."  
The U.N. mandate provides the last legal thread of domestic U.S. authority for combat because "enforcing relevant U.N. resolutions" was one of the two activities cited by the 2002 vote in Congress authorizing the use of force against Iraq (the other being to dispose of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein). If the U.N. mandate expires on Dec. 31, so does domestic authority for our troops to fight, along with their immunity from Iraqi prosecution. This is precisely the "legal vacuum" that constitutional scholars Bruce Ackerman and Oona Hathaway detailed in an April 5 op-ed, " The War's Expiration Date," on  
We have proposed an alternative that would serve our interests and those of the Iraqis far better: extending the U.N. mandate in Iraq for six months, as has been done before, so that the new president and Congress can work with Iraq's leaders to determine the next agreement. 
Second, The Post failed to appreciate the exclusivist manner in which the administration has pursued this agreement. Congress was broadsided by the "declaration of principles," outlining the negotiating parameters, signed by President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in November. Lawmakers have since been denied access to information on the U.S. negotiating position and even on U.S. goals. This is a key reason that not just Democrats but also Republicans have expressed reservations.   
Other leaders on the issue include Senator Hillary Clinton who raised the issue April 8th in a Senate hearing to US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker.  Hillary noted that the White House "is planning to make an agreement with Iraq" and Crocker confirmed that it would "be submitted to the Iraqi Parliament for ratification" but, when asked by Hillary if the White House intended "to submit the agreement to our Congress," Crocker replied no.  As Hillary noted that "seems odd to Americans . . . [that] the Iraqi Parliamnet may have a chance to consider this agreement" but "the United States Congress does not."  [December 7th of last year, Hillary introduced legislation that would require Bully Boy to get "Congressional approval for any agreement that would extend the US military commitment to Iraq."]  April 9th, US House Rep Susan Davis would echo Clinton's points and point out that allowing the Iraqi Parliament a say while the US Congress gets none (under the White House plan) "strikes people in our districts as strange."  Senator Joe Biden (now the Democratic vice presidential nominee) pointed out in an April 10th hearing, "The second agreement is what Administration officials call a 'standard' Status of Forces Agreement, which will govern the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, including their entry into the country and the immunities to be granted to them under Iraqi law. Unlike most SOFAs, however, it would permit U.S. forces -- for the purposes of Iraqi law -- to engage in combat operations and detain insurgents. In other words, to detain people that we think are bad guys. I don't know any of the other nearly 90 Status of Forces Agreements that would allow a U.S. commander to arrest anyone he believes is a bad guy."  In that hearing Senator Jim Webb would also insist the "document" would need the consent of  the Senate.  From the April 10th snapshot:
Biden spoke of how US Ambassador Ryan Crocker told the committee on Tuesday that this was about setting "forth a vision, to use his words, of our relationship with Iraq" but "one of the problems . . . is the visition this administrations shares for Iraq is not shared by two of the thee" current candidates for president in the Democratic and Republican Parties -- referring to Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  Biden noted that those appearing before Congress keep stating that the agreements "aren't binding to us but, in Iraq, they think we mean it . . . because otherwise we wouldn't be having this kind of discussion."  Biden noted the "internal threat" aspect being proposed and how these requires the US "to support the Iraqi government in its battle with all 'outlaw groups' -- that's a pretty expansive commitment."  He noted that it requires the US "to take sides in Iraq's civil war" and that "there is no Iraqi government that we know of that will be in place a year from now -- half the government has walked out." 
"Just understand my frustration," Biden explained.  "We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist."  Senator Russ Feingold wanted to know if there were "any conditions that the Iraq government must meet?"  No, that thought never occurred to the White House.  "Given the fact that the Maliki government doesn't represent a true colation," Feingold asked, "won't this agreement [make it appear] we are taking sides in the civil war especially when most Iraqi Parliamentarians have called for the withdrawal of troops?"  The two witnesses didn't appear to have heard that fact before.  Feingold repeated and asked, "Are you not concerned at all that the majority of the Iraqi Parliament has called for withdrawal"  Satterfield feels the US and the agreement "will enjoy broad popular support" in Iraq.  Satterfield kept saying the agreement wasn't binding.  And Feingold pointed out, "The  agreement will not bind the Congress either, if the Congress were to" pass a law overriding it which seemed to confuse Satterfield requiring that Feingold again point that out and ask him if "Congress passed a clear law overriding the agreement, would the law override the agreement."  Satterfield felt the White House "would have to look carefully at it at the time" because "it would propose difficult questions for us."
"I would suggest," Feingold responded, "your difficulties are with the nature of our Constitution.  If we pass a law overiding it . . . that's the law."  The treaty and the efforts to bypass the Senate's advise & consent role was something that bothered senators on both sides of the aisle.  Senators Norm Coleman and Johnny Isakson also addressed it.  Republican Isaskson wanted to know if the agreement being pushed could be cancelled "by either at any time".  "Yes, sir," Satterfield responded.  Isakson noted the "pending elections" and couldn't remember a time when anything like that had happened before, where you'd put forth an agreement like this so close to the end of term.  Mary Beth Long wasn't aware of a precedent either.  Sentor Coleman was also concerned with the timing. 
This is not a minor issue.  And if something is agreed upon between the puppet and the White House and, by some miracle, it manages to clear the Iraqi chains of approval quickly, you could have Bully Boy putting it into effect before the election or immediately after -- while Congress is out of session.  It seems very unlikely that it could go through the approval process in Iraq that quickly; however, if it were to, Congress isn't even in session currently.  Or, as Dana Perino worded it at the White House press briefing today (speaking of the economy), "Well, obvioulsy Congress isn't here [DC], but we try to keep in touch with them on a range of issues. . . . So Congress isn't even going to be back here until about November 17th."  Morrell declared at the Pentagon today that there was agreement and that the treaty was just in the process of being reviewed by both sides.  Where's the Congress on this?  Where's the leadership?
In Iraq, the crisis continues for Iraqi Christians.  Despite Nouri al-Maliki stating over the weekend the crisis would be addressed, Mazin Yahya (AP) reports that today the puppet government finally managed to send "blankets and food . . . to help thousands of Christians" who fled Mosul.  Assyrian International News Agency reports "Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Bakir al-Nassiri issued a fatwa (religious decree) yesterday stating the Christians whose lives are subjected to threats in the city of Mosul should be provided with aid and patronzage, calling on the Iraqi government to take all the necessary measures to protect them."  As noted in yesterday's snapshot, in Canterbury, religious leaders ended a three-day conference.  Ethan Cole (Christian Post) reports:
The 17 prominent Muslims, joined by 19 Christian leaders, denounced the persecution of Iraqi Christians in their communiqué, released Wednesday at an interfaith conference hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, according to Episcopal News Service. 
It was deeply troubling, the leaders expressed, to learn of the situation in Mosul where more than 8,300 Christians have been forced to flee due to violence from Islamic extremists in the last two weeks. 
"We are profoundly conscious of the terrible suffering endured by Iraqi people of every creed in recent years and wish to express our solidarity with them," the Muslims and Christians leader at the meeting stated. "We find no justification in Islam or Christianity for those promoting the insecurity or perpetrating the violence evident in parts of Iraq." 
CNN reports that a curfew has been imposed in Mosul and that "At least 6,000 Christians have fled the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in the past week because of killings and death threats, Iraq's Ministry of Immigration and Displaced Persons said Thursday."   Alsumaria reports that Iraqi Christians and "tribal figures" protested in Baghdad against the attacks on Christians in Mosul yesterday: "The Secretary General of the national council for tribes and awakening leaders council Mostapha Kamel expressed soldiarity with Christians."  And while the puppet government finally made times -- all these days later -- to send food and blankets (things relief agencies were begging for as early as Monday morning), that's about all al-Maliki has managed.  Except words.  Qassim Khidhir (Kurdish Globe) quotes Father Rafael Benjamin declaring, "Up to this point, the Iraqi government has not found any solution to end the hostile acts against Iraqi Christians."  Other than putting up some barriers (some more barriers) yesterday, the puppet government really can't claim much.  In the face of a crisis.
Turning to other reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded two Iraqi service members, a Baghdad car bombing ('sticky' bomb) that wounded three people, a Diyala Province roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 "6 year old child . . . and his brother, a 7 year old child, was injured while they were herding their sheep in the area," and a Salahuddin car bombing that left four police officers injured.  Reuters notes a Mosul hand grenade attack that left seven Iraqi service members wounded, a Mosul roadside bombing that left two people injured and another Mosul bombing that left two children injured.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person shot dead by police in Kirkuk, 1 person shot dead in Shorash, Lt Col Mohammed Said shot dead in Kirkuk.  Reuters notes "Iraqi troops fired shots into the air in eastern Mosul" and wounded four people.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.
Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Corps - Iraq Soldier died of non-battle related causes at approximately 10 p.m. Oct. 15 in Baghdad." And they announced, "A Coalition force Soldier was killed in an indirect fire attack Oct. 16 in Diyala."  The announcements bring to 4185 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.
Yesterday the Republican and the Democratic presidential candidate were invited to a debate that barred all other presidential candidates.  Barack Obama, Democratic candidate, and John McCain took part in a debate hosted by CBS News' Bob Schieffer -- here for transcript (and video), here for Katherine Q. Seelye's live blogging at the New York Times.  Among the issues Schieffer probed was abortion.  For those who've forgotten, Barack always knew he could use sexism throughout the primary because he had the club of "What will happen to Roe!"  He knew -- or thought he did -- that women would have to flock to him -- like a battered wife to an abuser? -- because they had no where else to go.  Mike caught the moment, "Mainly we got to see Barack was even more right-wing than we knew as he talked about 'partial-birth abortions' and said he wanted to end late-term abortions (except for health!). Except for health? He's already made clear what he thinks about that. So he's going to chip away at abortion rights the same way the Supreme Court has. Barack's apparently pro-life on the installment plan. He'll do away with Roe bit by bit if elected. There's no Democrat in the presidential race, sadly."  Madamab (The Confluence) also points to Barack's embarrassing answer, "Didja catch that, ladies? First the veiled threat about Roe v. Wade, which events in the past eight years have proven to be fearmongering of the most despicable type. Then, Obama assumes that before making a decision about our own bodies and our own babies, we naturally "consult with" an entire committee of people. Does he actually know anyone who's had to deal with this choice? (At least he has finally realized that some women are not Christian! Mr. Sensitivity has substituted the words 'religious advisers' for the more exclusive word 'pastors.') It never occurs to Senator Obama that women can make these decisions without "consulting with" anyone. It never occurs to Senator Obama that some women would not dream of going to any religious figures to ask whether or not to get an abortion, because some women are atheists or agnostic, or know that their 'religious advisors' would not support them in their decision. (DUUUUHHHH.) And it never occurs to Senator Obama that some women are pregnant BY members of their families, and that going to their families would be the LAST thing they would do in that case. Anyone who is at all familiar with the attempts by the religious right to try to force women to get the consent of their parents before getting an abortion, would be aware of that fact. (Double DUUUUUHHHHHH.)"  Heidi Li (Heidi Li's Potpourri) wonders why Barack refuses to make support for Roe v. Wade a litmus test when appointing Supreme Court justices if he's elected: "What does matter is that Senator Obama, whose party is committed to upholding Roe, refused to commit to treating that as a make or break issue when it would come to his judicial appointments.  And another thing: why does Senator Obama think that women need to consult with doctors, families, and religious advisers when deciding what to do with their own bodies?  I have no objection to anybody consulting with anybody about any decision, but Senator Obama's committee of consultants approach suggests that once again he misses the point when it comes to women's empowerment."  Lambert (Corrente) explains, "Either the woman is in the 'best position,' or a sort of committee, composed of the woman (indeed, we've come a long way), her family, and various religious and medical experts is in the 'best position.'  Why would Obama believe that a committee is in the 'best position' instead of the woman herself?"
Another exchange was focused on by Cedric and Wally (joint-post) and by Kat.  This was when Barack refused to call out his supporters wearing t-shirts proclaiming Governor Sarah Palin was a c**nt or yelling to "stone her, old style."  Instead Barack elected to lie.  In fact, it was the Tawana Brawley campaign tactic.  Play Barack as the victim and drive up the sympathy factor.  Barack yammered on in that annoying uh way of uh his and at some point declared "all the Republican reports indicated were shouting, when my name came up, things like 'terrorist' and 'kill him' . . ."  As Ava and I noted Sunday, " Based on one report (in The Washington Post), Goody tried to tease out a story of Governor Sarah Palin speaking to a crowd that yelled 'Kill him!' about Barack Obama. That didn't happen and your first clue is that only one outlet covering the speech mentioned it. Your second clue came when the Secret Service investigated the paper's allegation and found no evidence to support it."  Eileen Sullivan's "Secret Service looking into Obama threat at rally" (Associated Press) reported yesterday, "Last week, The Washington Post reported a similar incident during a Palin rally in Clearwater, Fla. The Secret service investigated that allegation and found no indication that 'kill him' was ever said, or if it was said, that the remark was directed at Obama.  Listening to tapes of that rally, the Secret Service heard 'tell him' or 'tell them,' but agents never heard 'kill him,' Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren told The Associated Press on Wednesday."  Sullivan also noted a media claim that it had taken place in Scranton and that the Secret Service was now investigating.  Gqmartinez (Corrente) wonders, "Are we going to trivialize death threats the same way we trivialized racism? If Obama does win and we disagree with his policies, are we going to be called racists or, worse, be implicated in plots against him? Death threats are real and, in my view, very serious. Throwing out unfounded allegations to tarnish the opposition is not only a disgusting tactics, but it takes away focus from the real threats that may be out there."  And Gqmartinez highlights Andrew M. Seder's "Secret Service says 'Kill him' allegation unfounded" (Scranton Times-Leader).  Seder advises that the Scranton Times-Tribune reported that 'kill him' was cried "while congressional candidate Chris Hackett was addressing the crowd"; however, "[t]he agent in charge of the Secret Service field office in Scranton said allegations that someone yelled 'kill him' when presidential hopeful Barack Obama's name was mentioned during Tuesday's Sarah Palin rally are unfounded."  Seder goes not to note the way various outlets began 'reporting' it after the Times-Tribune's error. (Language Warning) Joseph (Cannonfire) also notes the Times-Leader article and compiles the threats against Hillary Clinton before wondering, "The disgusting behavior of the Obama culstists should have been an issue of national discussion -- and would have been, had the media deigned to cover the story. Why didn't they?"  So let's review.  Two published reports of one person yelling "kill him" and two investigations that found no proof of the claim.  But it sure was a nice talking point for Barack last night.  Ruth pointed out the best moment in the debate, when John McCain declared, "Senator Obama, I am not President Bush.  If you want to run against President Bush, you should have done it four years ago."
Elaine focused on Barack's refusal to answer the question regarding mandates (a mandate does mean those not in compliance will be penalized and that's generally a fine but maybe it's jail time as well?  Barack was happy to insist to Tim Russert that Hillary would fine because she had a mandate but he never wants anyone pointing out that his health care for children is mandated as well).  Rebecca called the debate for McCain and noted how the forum was not to Barack's benefit.  (For the perfect example of that, watch or read The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric's "Candidates Discuss Why Politicians Cheat" -- and those dependent upon the transcript should know it is very kind to Barack, leaving out all his uh-uh-uhs.)
Still on the topic of the debates, Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate and his campaign issued the following which provides perspective on Barack's claims during last night's debate:
Well, on three key issues last night -- energy, health insurance, corporate crime -- Obama stood with the corporations against the interests of the American people. 
Compare Nader to Obama. 
Last night, McCain challenged Obama. 
Tell me one time you have stood up to the leaders of your party, McCain said. 
Obama couldn't name one time when he stood up to the corporations that control his party. 
So, instead he named a couple of times when he stood with the corporations. 
And against the interests of the American people. 
I voted for tort reform, Obama said.  
Brave of you Barack.  
You stood with the National Association of Manufacturers against injured people. 
I support clean coal technology, Obama said. 
Wow Barack, you stood with the polluting coal industry against people who suffer the consequences. 
When McCain accused Obama of supporting a single payer, Canadian style national health insurance system, Obama said he didn't.  
And he doesn't. 
Despite the fact that a majority of doctors, nurses and the American people want it.
On national health insurance, Obama stands with the insurance industry and against the American people who are demanding single payer.  
Over 5,000 U.S. physicians have signed an open letter calling on the candidates for president and Congress "to stand up for the health of the American people and implement a nonprofit, single-payer national health insurance system." (Here's the ad that ran in the New Yorker magazine.) 
Obama says no. 
McCain says no. 
Nader/Gonzalez says yes. 
Yes to single payer. 
Yes to solar and no to coal. 
Yes to protecting the American people from corporate recklessness and crime, no to tort deform. 
But that is right on the issues. 
Today, while Obama fronts for his corporate donors, Ralph Nader, Matt Gonzalez and the Nader Team will be on Wall Street protesting corporate America's sustained orgy of excess and reckless behavior. 
Nader/Gonzalez continues to stand with the people. 
Against the corporate criminals and their candidates in the two major parties.
Onward to November. 
Shorter version, via Mike, "There's no Democrat in the presidential race, sadly."  Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney, Bob Barr, Chuck Baldwin, John McCain and Barack Obama are all invited to a presidential debate Sunday.  Austin Cassidy's Independent Political Report explains that the debate will take place at Columbia University from eight to ten p.m. (EST) and that the moderator will be Amy Goodman -- "CSPAN will cover the debate and live radio broadcasts are expected."  Commenting on the exclusion of Cynthia McKinney (the only female presidential candidate this year), Kimberly Wilder (On The Wilder Side) noted, "This year, one of the pre-debate educational events at Hofstra University in Long Island will include a historical re-enactment presentation entitled 'Women's Rights: Conflicts and Schisms', which will include the character of Victoria Woodhull.  Though, would Victoria Victoria Woodhull, a third party presidential candidate, have been allowed to participate in the Presidential Debates at Hofstra?  If Victoria Woodhull was excluded -- as modern, woman presidnetial candidate Cynthia McKinney is slated to be -- what would Victoria Woodhull have done?"  And, of course, Cynthia was excluded last night.  File it under hypocrisy and see Marcia's post on hypocrisy in the 2008 election.
"John McCain won tonight's debate with strong, clear straight talk about setting a new direction for our country and fighting for working families. He outlined a specific, bold plan for creating jobs, helping those near retirement, keeping people in their homes, curbing spending, lowering health care costs and achieving energy independence. He vowed to fight for 'Joe the Plumber' every day he is President and he affirmed his belief that we shouldn't raise taxes just to 'spread the wealth.' While Barack Obama is measuring the drapes and campaigning against a man not even on the ballot, John McCain demonstrated that he has the experience, judgment, independence and courage to fight for every American."