Saturday, October 04, 2008

Economic melt in the Kitchen

The economy. First up, we know how to make rice, we've gone over that. We know how to make beans. We've gone over that.

I mention it because a number of you are really stretched.

So what I want to do today is not offer a recipe. I want you to think about what you know how to make and e-mail me your recipe for next week.

I'm turning the power to you because that's what matters.

I say that mainly due to Heidi's e-mails. At the end of our exchange, she wrote, "Why didn't I think of that?" (And she said I could note her e-mails.)

Things are so tough for her family (as they are for many families) that long ago the kids sack lunches started being peanut butter but last week it was time to serve peanut butter sandwiches with dinner. She was very upset and, when people are, they need to talk.

This is not, "Heidi, I had other things to do!" I was glad to help. But Heidi needed someone to talk to more than she needed advice. (She came up with, all on her own, buying some bananas and cutting those up to put with dinner sandwiches and with cutting up the sandwiches so it wasn't just two slabs of bread on a plate.) But there are many more who will not write going through what Heidi did. I've never written about peanut butter sandwiches here. (I honestly don't eat peanut butter sandwiches. I buy crunchy peanut butter for myself and will have a few spoonfuls of it plain, no bread. Peanut butter -- and peanut butter brittle -- are two of my weaknesses.)

Heidi had the answers that would work for her all along and just needed someone to bounce ideas off and some encouragement. But she wrote. And I know some others must be feeling the same and didn't. So I'm giving an assignment here: Come up with something to serve from what you already know how to cook. It might be adding tuna to mac & cheese and calling it a casserole or something similar. But think of an idea because if Heidi needed one, a lot more probably do.

I was about to move deeper into the economy but I am looking at my e-mails and see that Heidi's friend Robyn is on the same wavelength. She just wrote in to suggest a mac & cheese recipe. Use a box of mac & cheese, add one small can of tomato sauce and one small can of mushrooms and call it "pasta and cheese." That's what I'm talking about.

This isn't a bakeoff. No one needs to be highly creative. I'm talking about basic ways to dress up things you already make so that they are fresh if you're eating them repeatedly.

And with the current economy, we'll probably all be eating dishes repeatedly.

Call it the left over economy.

So last week I noted that the country didn't need to rush to a bailout and, no surprise, Congress felt otherwise. First the House briefly stood up at the start of the week -- due to phone calls from constituents. Then the Senate caved with all three senators on presidential tickets caving (Joe Biden, John McCain and Barack Obama). And Friday afternoon, the House caved.

If you've read what the House or Senate passed (or read of it), you know it is filled with pork and has little to do with helping the people. They made sure they got what they wanted and we the people apparently weren't on their lists of concern.

The bailout was never needed. It was never needed that it be rushed through.

I think, my opinion, Monday's revolt by citizens scared them that we might actually grow more informed so they rushed through a bill in both houses.

So while we got no checks and we got no protections, an industry that violated the laws got 'saved.' It lives to destroy another day and, be sure, it will.

With McCain, I'm less disappointed. That's because I don't expect a lot of 'change' from Republicans. (Though, in fairness, Republicans in the House voted against it in large numbers on Monday and on Friday.) But what about the so-called 'change' ticket?

This is the 'change' Barack and Joe plan to take us to? More corporate socialism while the people live under a ruthless capitalist system? We're preyed upon but corporations get special protection?

Who knew that corporations constituted a special class of people?

I kind of thought, with all their money and not being actual living human beings, they took the backseat to we the people. But what do I know? I'm not in Congress.

Barack danced the dance his corporate donors commanded. Big surprise. If elected, he would do the same every day for four years.

That's why I am supporting Ralph Nader.

There is no Democrat at the top of the ticket. Only another War Hawk whose loyalties are to corporations.

Might I also add that Democratic 'leaders' are idiots?

The only reason Barack finally saw a bounce in the polls was this problem. It was to the Democratic ticket's benefit to postpone passage of a law. That would have kept the anger on and driven people to the voting booths on election day.

But 'leaders' aren't very smart and the bulk of them, like Barack, are bought and paid for by corporations.

With the crisis 'resolved' (that's how it will be played by the press), look for Barack to fall back down in the polls and, at some point, Pelosi will smack her forehead -- in her best "I could have had a V8!" fashion -- and grasp that she took an issue that could have driven the election and set it aside.

Things are not going to get better. Yes, that is a prediction but it's based on awareness.

You need to think about what time of year it is.

Reading various stories not on the bailout recently, economic stories (some of which C.I. sent me, thank you, C.I.), it really drove home how much trouble the economy is in. Take for example an article I read (Monday, I think) in The New York Times about the music industry. The last quarter needs to have huge sales in order to make up for a lackluster year. It is true that, regardless of sales in any year, the music industry sells recorded product best as people begin buying their holiday presents.

There will be no great sales in music this last quarter (my prediction) because most people do not have the money.

So the music industry will post a lousy quarter that reflects a lousy year.

And that should have you thinking about the way sales are flat across the board. With the economy tanking, holiday presents will not be bought in their usual numbers. And last year saw a big drop off in spending for the holidays.

So this crisis is not over, the economy is actually worse than most are admitting. The final quater (due to a number of holidays) regularly offers all industries the chance to make up for a sluggish year. But this year, there is just not money in the consumer sector to assist with that last minute push.

We will get the usual propaganda of "Christmas buying off the charts!" They run those stories every year. A few weeks after the retail season is over, we tend to get more honest assessments. Those original stories are nothing but sales pitches where the corporate press attempts to make you think everyone else is buying so why aren't you? Don't you love your family? Don't you want to give presents? Are you a Scrooge?

This year spending is going to be way down and the brief drop in oil prices (at a time when we also have less need for air conditioning) will quickly be wiped away as home heating costs dig into our pockets (as it does every year at this time).

I kept listening to radio programs and reading newspapers all this past week in search of one person who would make that point. No one did.

And they're the economists.

Under the Bully Boy, we've had several years where, if it weren't for the last quarter profits, the economy would have been much worse. Now we're going to be heading into the holiday buying season with Americans nervous (with good reason) about the economy and with few having disposable cash. (A second relief check from Congress at the start of December could avert what I'm talking about. I'm not advocating for that -- though I wouldn't refuse to cash such a check -- I'm just saying.)

Then there was the other issue (personal) last week. Mid-week, our third oldest daughter (or second youngest) phoned. She'd been let go. Her company let go twenty employees because they're nervous about the economy and about making the payroll. My youngest son (Mike) moved out recently so we have his room and we suggested she immediately move back in. That allowed her to pay for breaking her lease but not be stuck with even more housing bills. She's paying down on a car, she needs to watch her money. (Should she not be able to find a job -- wouldn't surprise me in this market -- her unemployment check should make the car payment. And we're certainly not going to charge her rent. We wouldn't do that in a good ecoonomy.)

Back in April, she had an evaluation that was glowing and she received the maximum raise. Now she's been laid off. It has nothing to do with her and I explained that over and over as did my husband but she can't be blamed for thinking it must be her fault.

It's not but that is what goes through your head.

I think we'll be seeing more layoffs and I think that will also impact spending. You will have those who cannot spend due to layoffs and those who will cutback on spending due to fear of layoss. The last quarter is going to be a very bad one for retail and for companies who sell anything other than fuel most likely.

We imposed a rule, my husband and I. We do not need gifts. If our children can afford gifts, our rule is that they buy for those brothers and sisters who are not working, not us. I'm going to be so guilt ridden on Christmas morning, it's not going to cheer me up to unwrap presents. I will be cheered to see my daughter (or my two children in college) opening gifts.

Guilt ridden? I cannot help taking this economy personally. I dropped other topics some time ago to focus on this and we know from your stories that the situation was so much worse than what the press was portraying. I can't help but think I should have hit even harder on the economy. And done so much sooner.

I open the e-mails now and am always nervous afraid that a reader just lost a job or their spouse did. Afraid that a house payment is so much and they're about to go into foreclosure.

My husband and I paid off our house long ago. We did save for a rainy day so -- unless the banks collapse -- we should be able to weather a brief bad spell. (I do worry it won't be brief.) But there are so many families and individuals who can't. I was reading an e-mail from a reader whose best friend just left.

He lost his job. She offered for him to move in with her family but he didn't want to be a burden and he has no family. (He's not married but I mean his parents are dead and he's got no one.) She has no idea where he is. He lost his job, he doesn't live in his apartment and no one knows where he is.

And I really feel for those who are alone because that must make it even more frightening. I'm one of eight children and I gave birth to eight children. I have no idea what it's like to be alone. I have to picture it. Visualize it. And I imagine it must be very, very scary. I also think about young women who have been the victims of physical abuse and/or incest in their families and how, if they lose their jobs, where do they go?

We have been a society living from pay-check to pay-check for so long that we think it is normal and we think the destroyed social net is normal. We may very well be on the verge of grasping why the New Deal was so very necessary all those years ago.

I'm not trying to depress anyone. And maybe you have a large, loving family like I do and you can find some happiness during this bad period in that? If so, great.

I was talking to C.I. about that and she said, "Trina, you know that you or anyone in your family can come live out here." And I do know that and we're all very lucky if we have friends we can count on.

But I keep thinking about that young man who just up and disappeared. I have to wonder what will become of him? And others like that. And it's not just young women who were the victims of incest and physical abuse. There are a large number of people -- living pay check to pay check -- who, if the rug is pulled out from under them, have no where to go.

We will know the economy is completely in the toilet when the press begins telling those stories.

Betty's "Robin Morgan, kiss my Black ass." is the something thing I want to talk about. (The period in Betty's title is intended.) I was making coffee and going around the kitchen trying to wake up when the phone rang and it was Betty. She was about to post that and wanted to read it to me because C.I. listened and offered some input. But Betty was surprised (and worried) because the input didn't include trying to alter what she was saying. (C.I.'s input was along the lines of, "If you're making that point, you should reference . . .") Betty was worried about it. So I said, "Coffee's done, let me pour a cup, I'll sit down at the table and you'll have my full attention."

Then she read it and it's wonderful. C.I.'s not going to have a problem with it and if Betty and C.I. weren't so close, Betty wouldn't have worried. C.I. never cares if we disagree or take a point C.I.'s made futher or whatever. Yes, C.I. likes Robin Morgan but C.I. also likes Betty. Betty's opinions are as valid as Robin Morgan's and her response is to Morgan's nonsense is needed.

So first I told her how great I thought her writing was and then I went over that. Since Betty and I are on the one week posters, I thought I'd note it here.

And C.I. is not upset (as Betty worried). Please. Betty wrote honestly and shared her thoughts, C.I. will have no problem with that. I'll prove it: Robin Morgan's an idiot.

That's my opinion of her and has been since she wrote that Ms. cover story in the 90s that fell apart. Robin Morgan saw sexual victimization everywhere but one place she saw it, that she chose to emphasize? Not reality. It was a trend story and she looked like the biggest fool in the feminist movement as a result. So sorry, Morgan, I'll never take you seriously as a result. I know C.I. likes her but C.I. knows (and understands) my opinion and it's never been a problem when I've expressed it privately and it won't be a problem that I've expressed it publicly. There are some online sites that have group-think. For this community, we're just on the left. C.I. created the community and she has always been the first to say that it's okay to disagree. She's encouraged it anytime any of us have disagreed, encouraged us not to worry about it and that disagreements and differences of opinions can be healthy (which they can) and we can all learn from them. So I can (and will) say Robin Morgan is a joke in my book and it is not going to upset C.I. or lead to a phone call or e-mail. The community agrees on principles, it doesn't have to agree on individuals.

Due to the fact that C.I. gets blamed for everything, we all try to note it when we're disagreeing. That's been a constant in the online world since 2005. It's because C.I. and The Common Ills are the most widely known online. But Rebecca writes something and there's FAIR rushing to e-mail C.I. to complain. It's not really C.I.'s business (as she would be the first to admit) what Rebecca writes at her site. But there's FAIR whining in an e-mail to C.I. about how mean Rebecca is. It's nonsense.

And more recently we all saw the attack on C.I. My father didn't get that. Not just the attack period but why it was i.d.ed with C.I. C.I. never wrote that crazy woman. Dona, Jess and Jim are part of The Third Estate Sunday Review. But putting Third in the title wouldn't get the LYING COWARD any 'hits' so she uses C.I.'s name to try to build one for herself.

Or The Nation is peaved with Third so they e-mail C.I. about what is at Third's site.

No matter what any of us do or say (and this isn't a gripe at C.I.), online, anyone with a beef always turns it into "The Common Ills."

Equally true is that C.I. tells it like it is. C.I. does it in a nicer manner than the rest of us. But C.I. tells it like it is and that really ticks off a number people.

They are always lying in wait for anything any of us write that they can grab and run with. Not to attack us because we're not 'important' enough. (I would've thought Rebecca's sizeable audience would have qualified her as important enough. Third and my son Mike also have big audiences. Not as big as The Common Ills but that's a huge number of readers.) My father saw an attack on something I'd written last fall and said that they referred me to as "a Common Ills blogger." (I didn't read it. Attack at will, I honestly do not give a damn.)

I was reminded of that when Riverdaughter was specifically attacked by a woman who seeks male approval so desperately that, while claiming to be a feminist, she hopes and prays that no woman ever notices that not only can she not stop praising Bob Somerby, she never praises a woman.

I was tempted to write Riverdaughter (who I don't know) and tell her, "She attacked you because you have importance." That's what it really comes down. And I would not be at all surprised if the attack wasn't egged on. That's what happened with the most recent attack on C.I. A little bitty baby got his little feelings hurt and he's a Barack supporter so he egged on the attack. He seemed to think C.I. wouldn't know about it but C.I. knew about it within four days of finding out about the attack. If there's information to be found, C.I. will get ahold of it.

So Anglachel, or whatever the pompous blowhard's name is, attacked Riverdaughter, all the posters at Riverdaughter's site and PUMA as racists. Uh, Anglachel, some of your writing on affirmative-action struck me as borderline racist and that's why I marked you off my reading list.

Riverdaughter and her friends at The Confluence are not racists. It's a baseless charge and it's made to silence. You really shouldn't even try to defend yourself from it. If you've got to note it, say you aren't and move on. But what they're really hoping (as with attempting to attack C.I. for being against the illegal war) is that they can distract you. If you're focusing on the charge (denying it), you're not writing about what has them so ticked off.

Anglachel is a pompous blowhard who can't take a stand. She also really needs the 'linky goodness' from males.

Hey, Anglachel, I understand that. I don't agree, but I do understand it. I've gotten several e-mails about a list online of 500+ female bloggers. People keep writing that they've tried to have me added but their comments don't even make it out of moderation.

So I know what assholes are online, Anglachel. And I certainly know that women are the first ignored.

But that's no excuse for your yelling "racism" falsely. And that's what it looks like, that to get in good with the men, she decided to attack Riverdaughter. Riverdaughter and the others at that site are not racists. They are people outraged over the undemocratic nature of this year's selection, over the homophobia and sexism, over the lack of standards (Barack can cave on anything and not be called out or held accountable). They are writing from the heart as they attempt to make sense of the world around them. And that's why they are a threat and people like Anglachel attempt to silence and discredit them.

The only one who has anything to be ashamed of is priss-pot Anglachel.

I mentioned the following:

Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,

And I also need to note Elaine's "Thoughs on Robin Morgan" on the same theme Betty's written about. And let me just steal from C.I. Friday morning and include this:

On the debate last night, Kat weighed in with "My focus group scores Palin the winner," Marcia with "My grandparents say Palin won (I agree)," Mike with "Why I think Palin won the debate" and Cedric's "Biden gets a big topic wrong" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! PRECONDITIONS THROWS JOE!" (joint-post). Rebecca focused on the independent presidential candidate last night with ''ralph nader, the lenny bruce of politics" while Ruth focused on the latest nonsense from Naomi Wolf, "Naomi Wolf needs to get medical help."

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Friday:

Friday, October 3, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Rosa Clement (Green Party) and Matt Gonzalez (independent) take part in a vice presidential debate this morning, Sarah Palin (Republican) and Joe Biden (Democrat) took part in a vice presidential debate last night, what got signed in Iraq today?, and more.

Megan Feldman (Dallas Observer) notes the suicides of war veterans Andrew Valez, Ted Westhusing, Nils Aron Andersson, Jeff Lucey, Derek Henderson and Chad Barrett and explains:

A series of recent reports reveals that record numbers of active-duty troops are committing suicide, raising concerns about the military's ability to adequately screen, diagnose and treat soldiers with mental health problems.
An Army report released in May showed that at least 115 soldiers killed themselves in 2007, the highest rate since the Army began keeping records in 1980. One of the officials to present the study cited extended and multiple deployments, frequent exposure to "horrifying" experiences and easy access to loaded weapons.
This year's suicide tally among active-duty troops -- 62 confirmed and 31 other deaths still under investigation -- is on pace t surpass last year's and push the rate of suicides per 100,000 service members above that of the civilian population for the first time ever, Army officials announced in early September.
The reports follow the controversy that enveloped the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs earlier this year when the agency was caught deliberately hiding high suicide rates among veterans. An e-mail to colleagues from Ira Katz, the VA's head of mental health, began "Shh!" and estimated the unreleased number of suicide attempts at 1,000 per month. "Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?" he wrote. That was after the agency told CBS there were just 790 suicide attempts in all of 2007. After a three-month investigation, the network reported "a hidden epidemic" of suicides among veterans, especially the youngest ones who had served most recently.

In November of last year, CBS News aired a story entitled
'Suicide Epidemic Among Veterans.' On April 21, 2008, CBS News aired a story 'VA Hid Suicide Risk, Internal E-mails Show.' The reports (Armen Keteyian reported and Pia Malbran was the producer of the reports) were noted in an May 6th hearing of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee entitled "The Truth About Veterans' Suicides." The chair of the committee is US House Rep Bob Filner who pointed to these reports in his opening states and reminded Dr. Ira Katz (one of the witnesses appearing before the hearing) that not only had CBS News reported on this after being misled by the VA in November, but that Katz had told Congress in December 2007 that "from the beginning of the war through the end of 2005 there were 144 known suicides among these new veterans." Katz' e-mail that Feldman refers to in her report was replied to by Ev Chasen (VA's chief communication director) who declared, "I think this is something we should discuss ourselves, before issuing a release. Is the fact that we're stopping them good news, or is the sheer number bad news? And is this more than we've ever seen before? It might be something we drop into a general release about suicide prevention efforts, which (as you know far better than I) prominently include training employees to recognize the warning signs of suicide."

In July, the VA was stated that their suicide hotiline had received calls from more than 22,000 veterans (the number is 1-800-873-TALK). And, apparently keeping Ev Chasen's words in mind ("Is the fact that we're stopping them good news, or is the sheer number bad news?") declared that their work had prevented 1,221 suicides.

The May 6th hearing would include testimony from Dr. Roger Maris (University of South Carolina) where he would note that "the vast majority of VA facilities, in fact, do not have suicide coordinators." Monday
Mike Mount (CNN) reported, "The U.S. Army is establishing a suicide prevention board to examine the mental health of its recruiters around the country after the fourth suicide in three years by Houston, Texas-based recruiters, according to Army officials. The board will look at how to handle the high-stress climate facing recruiters who may be both under pressure from their job and victims of post-combat deployment stress, according to Douglas Smith, a spokesman from the U.S. Army Recruiting command." CNN refers to a recent suicide in the article and states they've chosen not to name the victim. AP reports there were two recent ones (Staff Sgt. Larry G. Flores Jr in August and Sgt 1st Class Patrick G. Henderson in September) "from the same Houston-based battalion" for a total of five from that battalion. Linsay Wise (Houston Chronicle) quotes Texas Tech's psychology chair David Rudd stating, "Clearly, there's a problem. Somebody needs to look and see if there's a broader national problem outside of this one battalion. Is it a problem placing these combat veterans in recruiting positions?" Wise also notes that US Senator John Cornyn has asked the Secretary of the Army "for a briefing on the ongoing investigation and on the policy of returning soldiers from combat and reassigning them to a recruiting office."

Kathlyn Stone (Twin Cities Daily Planet) reports on the work of Penny Coleman who runs PTSD workshops (and states, "It's not a disorder, it's an injury") including one in August at the Veterans For Peace conference and notes, "The VA is in denial about PTSD contributing to the high suicide rate of combat veterans, she says, adding that official counts aren't accurate. Speaking of Vietnam vets, Coleman said, 'There are more suicides than names on the [Vietnam Memorial] wall.' Veterans For Peace members agree that the United States must be better prepared to provide not only care for physical wounds but also better mental health support for soldiers now serving or just returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Coleman cited figures released by CBS News documenting over 6,256 military suicides in 2005." At the start of the week John C. Bersia (McClatchy-Tribune) observed, "Most Americans are familiar with the official Iraq toll -- as of last week, 4,169 U.S. dead, along with a several hundred from allied nations. Missing from that list, though, are Americans who fulfilled their duties and returned home unable to cope with the complexities of life after Iraq, often compounded by post-traumatic stress disorder. One such person died last week; his name was Dominic D.H. Pritchard, a resident of Ovideo, Fla. He was a U.S. Marine, a student, a citizen-soldier who volunteered with the Florida Army National Guard because of his desire to serve his community in times of clamity, and an emerging writer with a particular passion for history, military affairs and art."

Meanwhile retired Army Col and retired US State Dept
Ann Wright pens a column for The Fayetteville Observer:

As a former army officer who once served proudly at Fort Bragg, I'll be returning here Wednesday. I'm going to join in a commemoration of the deaths of three military women, and the suffering of the many other victims of military-related domestic violence and sexual assault.
The commemoration will start with a vigil at the Yadkin Road gate of Fort Bragg at 11 a.m. The vigil will be followed by a luncheon-discussion at 12:30 p.m. at the Quaker House and conclude with a wreath-laying at the grave of another victim of military spousal homicide.
We invite the military and civilian communities of Fayetteville and Jacksonville to join us.
We'll be especially mindful of the three women soldiers who were murdered in this area in the first six months of this year, allegedly by male GIs: Army Spc. Megan Touma, who was seven months pregnant; Fort Bragg nurse 2nd Lt. Holley Wimunc; and Marine Lance Corp. Maria Lauterbach, who had been raped and also was pregnant.

AP is reporting that arrrests have been made in the death of Sgt Christina E. Smith ("the third off-post killing of a Fort Bragg servicewoman in four months") -- her husband, Sgt. Richard Smith, is "charged with first-degree and conspiracy to commit murder" and "Pfc. Matthew Kvapil, 18, faces the same charges, and [Theresa] Chance [spokesperson for Fayetteville police] said he was hired by Smith to kill the wife as the couple walked together Tuesday evening."

In Iraq today . . . confusion.
Corinne Reilly (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that the presidency council "has agreed to approve a long-delayed law that will allow most of the country to hold provincial elections early next year, officials said Friday." However, China's Xinhua reports that the "presidential council had not approved the provincial election law passed by the parliament, local media reported Friday." Al Jazeera does not say that they have agreed to pass it, Al Jaezeera states that it is passed. AP also states it has passed and, in fact, signed into law by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani: "Firyad Rawndouzi, a Kurdish lawmaker, told The Associated Press that the three-member panel led by President Jalal Talabani had signed the law Friday and asked the parliament 'to solve the minorities problem'." Article 50 issue was never addressed. It is the one that has been called out by everyone from Iraqi Christians to Moqtada al-Sadr and puts minority representation at risk. Nouri al-Maliki did express some public statements and there is said to have been concern on the part of the presidency council. But if it's signed, it's the law. The Parliament can try to fix it but the law is what was signed by Talabani.

Erica Goode and Mohammed Hussein (New York Times) report on Samarra and among the details provided by the reporters is that the reconstruction of Askairya Shrine (after the 2007 bombing) is not only expensive (expected to cost $8 million), the reconstruction is being done "without blueprints." Samara, like everywhere in Iraq, suffers from the same problems: "few jobs available, that the water is not potable, that the electricity is intermittent at best, that they have not received their pensions and that there are shortages of medicine." At Baghdad Bureau Blog (the paper's blog) Mohammed Hussein has written of the journey taken to report that story and notes, "The Awakening and National Police and Iraqi army all manned different checkpoints. It took one and a half hours to drive only 70 miles. There was some risk along the whole journey, but during the 90-minute drive I was really worried for only five minutes, near Meshahda. Five minutes can be a big deal." Hussein shares impressions of all the areas they traveled through, by the way.

Wednesday, the US 'handed over' the "Awakening" Councils to the puppet government in Baghdad.
Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor) reports today: "Fresh concern is washing over Iraq of a new wave of insurgent violence as the bands of mainly Sunni Muslim Iraqis, trained, armed and paid by the US military to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq are now coming under the control of a skeptical Shiite-led government. While the group called the Sons of Iraq (SOI) has been critically imporant in improving security, the US military and many leaders within the SOI worry that their foot soldiers -- many of them ex-insurgents -- will simply return to their old ways if they are not paid or brought into Iraq's official security forces." The Charleston Post and Courier editorializes on the same topic, expresses similar concerns and notes: "Doubts about the ability of the two sides to quickly develop a satisfactory relationship is a major reason why the Pentagon on Wednesday announced plans for sending additional forces to Iraq next year. The reinforcements, if needed, would maintain U.S. troop strength in Iraq at the present level of about 152,000 through 2009." Meanwhile UPI reports on the female branch of "Awakening" (also called Daughters of Iraq) and states that "is taking on a new role under U.S. financing as part of the counterinsurgency strategy there, officials said." They are paid 20% less than males and that wage discrimination was put in place by the White House. On the issue of counter-insurgency, Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus (Washington Post) report on the US Defense Department's latest contracts ("up to $300 million") which will "produce news stories, entertainment programs and public service advertisements" in Iraq aimed at Iraqis in a program called "information/psychological operations" that is part of the counter-insurgency strategies. The US has a lengthy history of attempting to use the media within Iraq to propagandize to the Iraqi people. For an earlier effort, you can refer to Borzou Daragahi and Mark Mazzetti (Los Angeles Times) explaining the process in 2005 which noted the US military penned articles and that many were then "presented in the Iraqi press as unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists. The stories trumpet the work of U.S. and Iraqi troops, denounced insurgents and tout U.S.-led efforts to rebuild the country."

It's Friday so little violence gets reported but some of today's violence includes:.


Reuters notes a Sulaiman Pek roadside bombing which resulted in two people being injured.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.

Today the
US military announced: "A Multi-National Division -- Center Soldier was killed when an improvised explosive device exploded near his vehicle south of Amarah Oct. 2." That is the first announced death for the month and brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq to 4177 since the start of the illegal war.

Democracy Now! today, a vice presidential debate took place between Matt Gonzales (Ralph Nader's running mate) and Rosa Clemente (Cynthia McKinney's running mate). During their debate, they were shown clips of GOP v.p. nominee Governor Sarah Palin and Democratic v.p. nominee Joe Biden weighing in on various topics from last night's debate.
From the transcript (and remember, it is watch, listen or read at DN!):

JUAN GONZALEZ: Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Biden, talking about the war in last night's debate. Rosa Clemente, Green Party vice-presidential nominee, what's your viewpoint on the war?

ROSA CLEMENTE: Well, the Green Party's viewpoint -- and Cynthia has been very clear, and the party has been very clear -- an immediate end to the war, an immediate withdrawal of troops in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan. And, you know, one thing Cynthia agrees with a former colleague of hers, Dennis Kucinich, is that we now have to talk about creating departments of peace. And we have to also talk about withdrawing troops wherever they reside in other people's homelands. I always found it interesting -- or, you know, the fact that we, as the United States government, and we, as the people in this country, allow our military to be placed in other people's homelands. And being from Puerto Rico, I'm very clear on why the military does what it does. But we would never allow another country to have a military base there. And that might be a little simplistic kind of thing to throw out there, but I also think it speaks to the way we want to move forward in the future. And I don't think that either party is planning on ending the war. I think that the Democrats are more about transferring troops to Afghanistan and potentially preparing for a war in Pakistan. And even yesterday, Joe Biden talked about the possibility of putting troops in in Darfur. And I think that's something that we have to say immediately is unacceptable and that the majority of young people in this country have been clear for the last five years that we want an end to the war right now.

AMY GOODMAN: Independent vice-presidential candidate Matt Gonzalez?

MATT GONZALEZ: Well, I certainly -- and Ralph Nader supports getting our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. I think the problem with a lot of the rhetoric that we're hearing is that if you concede that the surge is working, which we do not concede--but the moment you do that, you are going to run into a problem with the so-called timetable. Are the Democrats going to stick to a timetable if, as they start to draw down troops, there's increased sectarian violence? And I think the answer to that is really unclear, and probably no. I think the only way that we can successfully get out of this country is if, at the outset, we make it clear we're going to -- we're going to work quickly to get our troops out of the region, that we're part of the reason why the region remains unstable.

And we'll also note
this section of the debate:

AMY GOODMAN: Matt Gonzalez, I know you have to leave, so I'm going to give you the first stab at this, as you catch a plane. And also, a correction: in 2004, yes, Ralph Nader was an Independent candidate, as well. He was, 2000, the Green Party candidate. Your comment on same-sex marriage?

MATT GONZALEZ: Well, obviously, Nader and I support marriage rights for all. I think it's insulting to hear these candidates want it both ways. They're essentially trying to appeal to both conservative voters who are opposed to gay marriage and somehow also appeal to progressive voters who want to see equality. You know, I think Ralph Nader, you know, when you step back and look at his history, he is somebody who is an enormously important voice against the growing corporate greed in this society and what concentrated capital does when it's left alone. And I think he's not somebody who has decided to fight against the two parties. You know, he has, his entire life, been fighting against these parties -- it's not a recent conversion -- on a host of issues. And I think he should have been in this debate. I think he has a legislative record that's stronger than the candidates that we saw in that debate. I mean, Joe Biden should have been asked about his support of credit card companies in Delaware, of the federal sentencing guidelines that he helped pass in the 1980s that, you know, has disproportionately hurt people of color. These were things that were absent. And I think if Rosa and I had been in that debate, it would have been a better debate.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Rosa Clemente, your perspective on gay marriage?

ROSA CLEMENTE: I mean, full 100 percent equal rights for everybody. I also take it a step further for it being about human rights. LGBT people are human beings, and they have a right, like anyone else, to get married, to get divorced, to not get married. But if I could just quickly just say, yes, Cynthia did leave the Democratic Party after twelve years, but while she was in there, it was Cynthia McKinney that had a hearing on the issue of political prisoners, the first-ever congressional hearing on that. It was Cynthia that pushed the envelope about what happened on 9/11. It was Cynthia that wrote the articles of impeachment. And I think that speaks highly to someone who will leave a party, finally, based on principles and values and then pick someone that truly represents what the majority of this country is going to look like. I think if me and Matt were on there, and if Cynthia, Bob Barr, [Chuck] Baldwin, Ron Paul and Ralph Nader were allowed to debate, the presidency on November 4th would look radically different and would represent the majority of American people.

Green Party presidential nominee
Cynthia McKinney took the "super pledge" Thursday:
I, Cynthia McKinney, pledge to use my candidacy, whenever feasible, to advance the preservation of democracy. I will officially challenge the results of the election as provided by law if the combination of election conditions, incident reports and announced election results calls into question the reliability of the official vote count. I will wait until all valid votes are counted and all serious challenges resolved before declaring victory or conceding defeat. I will involve my campaign volunteers in actions to enhance the accuracy and verifiability of the election in which I am a candidate. I will speak out publicly during the pre-election period about the importance of fair, accurate and transparent elections and about this pledge. I will designate a liaison between my campaign and "Standing For Voters" so that "Standing For Voters" can alert me to any red flags they are aware of regarding my election.

Meanwhile independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader weighs in on the economic bailout.
Click here for his post before the House voted today (it passed) and here were his thoughts prior to vote:

People often ask me -- what forces shaped you, Ralph? I reply simply: "A lucky choice of parents." Among other things, my parents passed down many traditions. Traditions that were handed down from generations before them. Traditions that served as a counterweight to the addictions. And fads. And technologies.

Of modern life. Traditions such as: The tradition of listening. The tradition of scarcity. The tradition of discipline. And the tradition of civics. A couple of years ago, I sat down at my manual Underwood typewriter and wrote a book titled The Seventeen Traditions (Harper Collins, 2007). It's about growing up in my hometown of Winsted, Connecticut (above is a picture of me standing next to my mother Rose). And it details the seventeen traditions of my youth. It's the only book that I've written that everybody loves. When you get a copy, you'll know why. Flipping through a copy of the book the other day, I asked myself -- If the majority in this Congress was governed by the traditions that we grew up with in the New England of my youth -- wouldn't they have acted to prevent Wall Street's "sustained orgy of excess and reckless behavior" -- as Richard Fisher, the president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank put it last week?
Surely they wouldn't then turn around and reward that behavior with a $750 billion bailout? By now you know that McCain, Obama and Bush all support the bailout. And Nader/Gonzalez are opposed. And we again urge all members of the House to vote against the bailout today.

But no matter how the House votes today, Nader/Gonzalez will be barnstorming the country in October. Putting front and center our platform of shifting the power from the corporations back into the hands of the American people. We're on the ballot in 45 states and the District of Columbia. We've deployed a contingent to each state to coordinate our get out the vote drive. And we're raising money to drive the campaign home to election day. But we need to raise $1,000,000 in October to get it done. Our first October goal is to raise $250,000 by October 12. Yes, that's a heavy lift. But it's been heavy before, and you've come through every time. So, here's the idea:
If you donate $17, or $170, or $10, or $50 -- whatever you can afford to donate -- by midnight tonight, we'll e-mail to you tomorrow a signed one pager listing the 17 traditions.

You can share it with your friends and family.Or just stick it in your drawer for posterity's sake.If you
donate $100 now, we will send you a copy of the 150-page hard cover edition of The Seventeen Traditions -- my favorite book. And I'll autograph it.In my humble opinion, this book makes a wonderful present -- for the upcoming holidays, as a wedding present, birthday present, Mother's Day present, or for a baby shower. (This Seventeen Traditions book offer expires on October 12, 2008 at 11:59 p.m.)So, stock up now.The more the merrier. The proceeds will power our campaign during this momentous October.Thank you again for your generous support.Together, we are making a difference.
Onward to November

Thursday night, Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Joe Biden debated.
The John McCain - Sarah Palin campaign issued this statement regarding the debate:

Statement From Communications Director Jill Hazelbaker
ARLINGTON, VA -- McCain-Palin 2008 Communications Director Jill Hazelbaker issued the following statement on tonight's Vice Presidential Debate: "Tonight, Governor Palin proved beyond any doubt that she is ready to lead as Vice President of the United States. She won this debate, putting Joe Biden on defense on energy, foreign policy, taxes and the definition of change. Governor Palin laid bare Barack Obama's record of voting to raise taxes, opposing the surge in Iraq, and proposing to meet unconditionally with the leaders of state sponsors of terror. The differences between the Obama-Biden ticket and the McCain-Palin ticket could not have been clearer. The American people saw stark contrasts in style and worldview. They saw Joe Biden, a Washington insider and a 36-year Senator, and Governor Palin, a Washington outsider and a maverick reformer. Governor Palin was direct, forceful and a breath of fresh air."

The McCain - Palin campaign also quotes Geraldine Ferraro, the first women to make the ticket of one of the country's two major parties (1984, the Democratic ticket of Mondale - Ferraro). Ferraro stated on NBC: "I really wanted her to get up there and do a good job, and I think she did. . . . I think it was a good evening for -- certainly for Governor Palin. . . . . I think she showed she is certainly capable of going toe to toe with a man who is more than qualified to be vice president, if not president of the United States."

Quickly, TV notes,
NOW on PBS offers a look at New Mexico which is seen as a battleground state in the 2008 election and speak to various voting groups as well as to Governor Bill Richardson. Washington Week finds Gwen sitting around the table with four journalists including the AP's Charles Babington. (And for others, 'journalists' is being generous.) In a book note, independent journalist David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which came out last month. The Oakland Institute notes: "Since NAFTA's passage in 1993, the U.S. Congress has debated and passed several new trade agreements - with Peru, Jordan, Chile, and the Central American Free Trade Agreement. At the same time it has debated immigration policy as though those trade agreements bore no relationship to the waves of displaced people migrating to the U.S., looking for work. Meanwhile, a rising tide of anti-immigrant hysteria has increasingly demonized those migrants, leading to measures that deny them jobs, rights, or any pretense of equality with people living in the communities around them. To resolve any of these dilemmas, from adopting rational and humane immigration policies to reducing the fear and hostility towards migrants, Uprooted: The Impact of Free Market on Migrants, a new Backgrounder from the Oakland Institute, suggests the starting point has be an examination of the way U.S. policies have both produced migration and criminalized migrants."

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