Friday, September 19, 2008

Cher and more

One of the half-dozen Minnesotans who greeted John McCain when he stepped off his plane Friday morning was John Kreisel, a Cottage Grove soldier who lost both legs in Iraq.
The two men spoke, embraced on the airport tarmac, and Kreisel, whose Humvee was blown up on Dec. 2, 2006, gave McCain a memento.
McCain mentioned the encounter at the end of his speech later Friday. "He wanted me to remember his three buddies who weren't as fortunate as me," McCain said, adding that such a story of sacrifice "puts everything in perspective."

That's from the Minn. Star-Tribune's "IRAQ VET, MCCAIN SHARE PRIVATE MOMENT" and, as everyone knows, I'm against the illegal war and think it needs to end now. As everyone knows, I'm voting for Ralph Nader. But there are Iraq War veterans who think the war should continue. I don't generally worry about highlighting that point because it's generally highlighted more than enough everywhere else.

However, the 'left' has sold out to Barack Obama. And it may be difficult for many to grasp that there are many of us who believe that War Hawks like Barack don't get voted into office. Since we are silenced by Panhandle Media, I am sympathetic to others who are silenced. The Big Media has followed the lead of Panhandle Media and shunned those who support the illegal war. A story like the above would have gotten plenty of play as late as 2007. Today it won't.

While I will not be voting for McCain and disagree strongly with his Kreisel's view, I am not under the impression that anyone wins in a democracy when realities are shunned or ignored. Shutting out voices like Kreisel will not change the fact that a large minority of Americans still support the Iraq War.

Good for Kreisel for expressing his thoughts. I don't have to agree with them to be glad that we are in a society where opinions can be expressed.

Now turning to Cher. As a few of you who e-mailed figured out, I was going to take e-mail suggesting into account. Thursday, I offered a Best of Cher (ten tracks) for each decade of the last century. I said I'd pull fourteen tracks from those forty for a Best of Cher 20th Century; however, too many of you wrote too many passionate e-mails. So, taking into account all the e-mails, I decided to up it to 15. And if you're unhappy, pretend I offered track sixteen and it was whatever your favorite Cher song was that didn't make the list.

1)"We All Sleep Alone"

2) "Just Like Jesse James"

3) "Heart of Stone"

4)"If I Could Turn Back Time"


6)"Take Me Home"

7)"The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore"

8)"The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)"

9) "You Better Sit Down Kids"

10)"Bang Bang"

11)"Half Breed"

12) "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves"

13) "Walking In Memphis"

14)"Main Man"

15) "My Song (Too Far Gone)"

It's a "best of," not a "greatest hits." Cher has had many, many charting singles that aren't above. I would be very interested in knowing how many top 100 hits Cher has had (on Cashbox and Billboard) during her career. Without counting her hits with Sonny Bono (which I excluded because the focus was on the solo artist Cher), I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that Cher's had more than fifty charting hits in the US. With Sonny, she hit number one in 1965 with "I Got You Babe." Solo, she hit number one again with "Believe" in 1999. So the question actually should be, why hasn't Cher been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame already? She more than met the criteria.

It's really amazing to look at some of the males inducted and grasp that they will bend rock to the point that it's easy listening to induct some male artists. So where's Cher?

Find another artist with her number of hits or her chart run that's not been inducted and I'm willing to bet it won't be man.

Women have regularly and repeatedly been ignored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the next slate of inductees should include more than a token woman. In fact, considering their s**t poor lists in the past, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should make all of the next inductees women. And after inducting the Bee Gees, they really have scraped the bottom of the barrel for the men.

There have been years when the inducted performers included no women (like 2003 and 2004 which wasn't that long ago). So it's past time to see some women inducted. I propose the next slate include Cher, Carly Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Diana Ross (inducted as part of the Supremes, not as a solo artist) and Stevie Nicks (inducted as part of Fleetwood Mac, not as a solo artist). I'm sure you can think of many others.

The "Rock" and "Roll" Hall of Fame has found time to induct such 'rockers' as the Bee Gees and Miles Davis. Don't tell me they can't make room for some women.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, September 19, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, a US air strike results in the deaths of Iraq civilians, the US State Dept gears up for a big push in Iraq, and more.

At the US State Dept today, deputy spokesperson Sean McCormack announced US Secretary of State Condi Rice was meeting with the Prime Minister and President of Kuwait "to talk about regional issues" and to "encourage the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Iraq and Kuwait." Asked about the status of the treaty between the US and Iraq (wrongly called a SOFA) McCormack fell back on, "I'm not going to talk about the substance of the negotiations. They continue. There have been a lot of ups and downs in these negotiations. But we still believe that we will be able to come to some agreement." US troops are currently legally covered by a United Nations mandate which expires at the end of the year. When that expires, if nothing is in place to replace it, as US Senator Joe Biden (also the Democratic vice presidential nominee) declared in a Senate session in April, then US troops would have to leave. McCormack was asked about instead of attempting a new agreement, attempting to yet again extend the UN mandate. McCormack dismissed the idea and stated, "The focus is still on getting an agreement between the United States and Iraq." McCormack stated that the State Dept's David M. Satterfield would be returning to Iraq ("leaving again Monday" for Iraq). Satterfield's title is Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State and Coordinator for Iraq.

While McCormack's trip will focus mainly on the treaty, it's part of a diplomatic push on the part of the State Dept in the final days of the current administration. Rice trip is part of that push. In recent weeks, Syria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have all appointed ambassadors to Iraq; however, only the UAE has stationed their Ambassador to Iraq in Baghdad. (The continued violence has prevented the other countries from doing so.)

The push comes as puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki makes noises against the treaty. As Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reported
yesterday and also on Wednesday (see Wednesday's "Iraq snapshot"), al-Maliki went on Iraqi TV Wednesday Steven Lee Myers and Sam Dagher (New York Times) discover the remarks today and report that al-Maliki declares the sticking point is over immunity for American troops in Iraq and that al-Maliki floated the idea of asking for an extension of the UN mandate declaring, "Even if we ask for an extension, then we will ask for it according to our terms and we will attach conditions and the U.S. side will refuse. U.S. forces would be without legal cover and will have no choice but to pull out from Iraq or stay and be in contravention of international law."

While al-Maliki raises that issue, one-time (and possibly current) CIA asset Ahmad Chalibi makes news. As one of the proponents (and liars) in the lead up to the illegal war, Chalabi continues to garner attention.
UPI reports that he declared to the Islamic Republic News Agency that the treaties being proposed between the US and Iraq are an attempt by the US to push permanent bases. He is quoted stating, "Within the framework of the security pact, the United States does not wish to merely have open military bases (in Iraq), rather secret military bases (there). If a security deal is not signed … by Dec. 31, regarding the recent U.S.-Russia row over Georgia and the Iraqi government's decision not to extend the U.S. forces' presence in Iraq for another year, the U.S. presence in Iraq will come across with difficulty in terms of the law."

Turning to the US Congress, Senators Hillary Clinton (Democrat) and John Ensign (Republican) are proposing a plan regarding Iraq's oil to the US State Dept.
Ben Lando (UPI) reports that the two senators are proposing that an oil trust fund be created for the Iraqi people and quotes an aide to Clinton explaining the proposal is similar to the Alaska model which "was 'inspiration for the idea of an oil trust' but that the State Department 'should develop a plan for Iraq so it fits Iraq's needs and provides several options'." Lando reports the State Dept's reaction: "The department said Iraqi leaders don't feel the time is right for such a trust fund, which demands too much from Iraq's fragile bureaucratic and financial systems." Lando adds that actions "continue to repair damage from storms in southern Iraq and a pipeline bomb in northern Iraq, bringing exports closer to the 1.9 million barrels per day averaged in August" and that an October 13th oil meeting will take place in London that "is expected to unveil the fields put to tender and the legal and technical specifics. The bidding for the fields is expected to be the first of many opportunities for international investment in Iraq's oil sector."

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (All Things Considered) reports on the move for Baghdad's puppet government to take control of "Awakening" Councils next month with "at least 20 percent of the militiamen [due to be brought into] into the state security forces and find civilian jobs for the rest" and the reaction to the Sunnis about that plan which has left them suspicious following the targeting of Sunni "Awakening" leaders by al-Maliki. "Awakening" leader Khalid Ibrahim declares, "They [the US] should have consulted us before taking any decisions so we could have given our opinion. Instead they have treated us like a commodity that can be moved at will from one place to another. . . . The aim is to get rid of us. Why? Because of the upcoming provincial elections and then national elections. They fear that we will get power." The provincial elections were due to take place this month; however, the inability to comes to terms with a basic agreement makes it unlikely that any elections will take place before year's end. The United Nations is working on a proposal which they hope to present either by the end of this month or the start of October.

Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a US air strike today which claimed mutliple lives in Al Dour. McClatchy's Leila Fadel explains that the deaths number at least eight "all from one family and including women," that the US military claims their helicopter only attacked 'terrorists' and that eye witnesses and Iraqi police disagree with the US military's statements including "Khaleel al Doori, a neighbor, [who] said his home was raided during the operation and that the American forces had used a loudspeaker to order people not to leave their homes. Doori said the U.S. troops shot a man and his wife." AP spends paragraph after paragraph parroting the US military's claims which is made all the more strange in paragraph seven: "U.S. airstrikes and conflicting claims about whether civilians have been killed have been common throughout more than five years of war as the Americans seek to minimize civilian casualties on the ground." Yes, they have repeatedly tried to minimize and fortunately for them AP joins them in minimzing today. AP quotes Sheik Faris al-Fadaam explaining the deceaded father (Hassan Ali) had been a Sunni police officer until the family had to leave Baghdad and that, "The family was very poor. The family came here and we helped them to rent that house. It was an extended family. They did not have any political affiliations. They did not engage in any hostile activity or have any connection with gunmen." Reuters does not give six opening paragraphs to the US military version of events, it gives one opening paragraph and then offers this: "A local Iraqi police officer put the death toll at eight. He said all were civilians from the same family and included three women. A helicopter air strike levelled the house at Dour, 140 km (85 miles) north of Baghdad, in Salahuddin province, he said."

Turning to some of today's other reported violence . . .


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded six people and a Mosul roadside bombing that wounded two people.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul home invasion in which both parents were killed and four other members of the family were wounded. Reuters notes 1 woman shot dead in Tuz Khurmato.

The number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war currently stands at
4168 with 17 for the month thus far. Since Thursday of last week, there have been 13 announced deaths.

Independent journalist
David Bacon latest book (just out this month) is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). Bacon also explores migration in "Displaced People: NAFTA's Most Important Product" (NACLA Reports):Since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993, the U.S. Congress has debated and passed several new bilateral trade agreements with Peru, Jordan and Chile, as well as the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Congressional debates over immigration policy have proceeded as though those trade agreements bore no relationship to the waves of displaced people migrating to the United States, looking for work. As Rufino Domínguez, former coordinator of the Indigenous Front of Binational Organizations (FIOB), points out, U.S. trade and immigration policy are part of a single system, and the negotiation of NAFTA was an important step in developing this system. "There are no jobs" in Mexico, he says, "and NAFTA drove the price of corn so low that it's not economically possible to plant a crop anymore. We come to the United States to work because there's no alternative."Economic crises provoked by NAFTA and other economic reforms are uprooting and displacing Mexicans in the country's most remote areas. While California farmworkers 20 and 30 years ago came from parts of Mexico with larger Spanish-speaking populations, migrants today increasingly come from indigenous communities in states like Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Guerrero. Domínguez says there are about 500,000 indigenous people from Oaxaca living in the United States, 300,000 in California alone.Meanwhile, a rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment has demonized those migrants, leading to measures to deny them jobs, rights, or any pretense of equality with people living in the communities around them. Solutions to these dilemmas-from adopting rational and humane immigration policies to reducing the fear and hostility toward migrants-must begin with an examination of the way U.S. policies have both produced migration and criminalized migrants.
Turning to public television. This weekend (Friday in most markets),
NOW on PBS will offer a look at women and politics:How have women in politics changed America and the world? NOW on PBS investigates with an hour-long special hosted by Maria Hinojosa: "Women, Power and Politics: A Rising Tide?"See the show on television this weekend or watch online STARTING SATURDAY[. . .]Show Description: Given the hoopla surrounding Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton's historical political ascendance, why does the U.S. rank so low among countries for percentage of women holding national office? On Friday, September 19 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), in a one-hour special, NOW's Maria Hinojosa talks to women leaders around the world and here in the United States for an intimate look at the high-stakes risks, triumphs, and setbacks for women leaders of today and tomorrow. Among these women are President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, the first woman leader in Latin America who did not have a husband precede her as President, and former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen, now in a tight race for a seat in the U.S. Senate.We also travel to Rwanda, where, 14 years after a horrific massacre left nearly one million people dead, women make up nearly half of parliament; and to Manhattan, where ambitious high school girls are competing in a high-stakes debate tournament."Women, Power and Politics," is also about the personal journey of mother and award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa as she strives to answer the question: "What does to mean to be a woman in power?"Watch a preview and excerpt of this special program at this web address:Use this directory tool to find out where the show is airing in your area:The NOW website ... will feature web-exclusive commentary from noteworthy women including Maria Bartiromo, Sandra Cisneros, and Tina Brown; a personal essay from Maria Hinojosa; an interactive debate over Sarah Palin's candidacy; as well as opportunities for all women to post and share their stories of ambition, success, and discouragement.(The "interactive debate" over Sarah Palin's candidacy is live now ...)Bill Moyers Journal (check your local listings, begins airing on PBS in most markets tonight, it also streams online -- transcript, video, audio) guests will inclue Gretchen Morgenson (New York Times) will be on to discuss the economic meltdown and Kevin Phillips (whose most recent book is Bad Money). PBS' Washington Week finds Gwen sharing opinions with David Wessel (Wall St. Journal), Charles Babington (AP) and John Maggs (National Journal) along with one other who desperately trolled the streets in an attempt to purchase an opinion from someone, anyone, so she didn't arrive empty handed.
(Babington was not booked this morning, the plan then was to have the bad writer for the NYT who also 'reports' for MSNBC on instead).

In the US presidential race,
Team Nader notes:

In the Public Interest Statement On Auto Industry Bailouts by Ralph Nader
The Big Three are in big trouble, and they have themselves to thank for it.
Ford and General Motors have reported substantial losses in the second quarter amounting to $15.5 billion, and $8.7 billion, respectively, while Chrysler, which was bought off last year by a private equity firm, Cerberus, refuses to reveal its financial standing.
It is no wonder why their lobbyists were spotted schmoozing with members of Congress at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, liquoring up in their plush suites and private parties while they made their case for direct government loans which, if approved, would likely add to our federal deficit.
Last December, Congress approved a $25 billion loan to automakers and their suppliers under the Energy Independence and Security Act, though it has yet to be funded. That bill includes a modest requirement for automakers to increase their average vehicle fuel efficiency to 35 mpg—a benchmark we should have set decades ago, and would allow the companies to have their way with virtually no oversight or accountability.
corporate Congress cannot be expected to issue serious demands, set tough conditions, or impose strict rules on the auto companies to ensure their workers receive fair pay and benefits, and prevent their fat-cat executives from making off big while leaving their companies in shambles.
Such blatant giveaways have become the norm in Washington since the corporate stranglehold of Congress and the White House have smothered the forces seeking worker, consumer and environmental justice.
But this recent example should not discount our long history of dealing with corporate failures in more public and effective ways than just ponying up billions on demand at any big corporation's whim.
In 1979 when Chrysler was on the verge of bankruptcy, the automaker came crying to Congress for a bailout, which they eventually got, but Congress wasn't as much of a pushover.
Back then, at least the corporate chieftains were grilled by Congress and had to agree to give something back for Uncle Sam bailing them out--good jobs and pensions for their workers, and more efficient cars to reduce reliance on foreign oil and reduce prices at the pump.
Now the CEOs don't even have to leave Detroit and they get much more money for almost no return commitment to America, while they outsource jobs and pollute our environment.
During discussion on a proposed loan bill to bailout Chrysler in October 1979, Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) who chaired the Senate Banking Committee issued his opposition to Chrysler;s request and noted: "We let 7,000 companies fail last year--we didn;t bail them out. Now we are being told that if a company is big enough… we can't let it go under." He went on to call the proposed deal "a terrible precedent."
Raising the government's demand for performance standards, President Carter's Treasury Secretary William Miller told Chrysler officials, "it's going to be so awful, you'll wish you never brought the whole thing up."
Today, we rarely hear such candid opposition to corporate orders shouted at their congressional servants who lack the fortitude to put serious restraints and conditions on mismanaged, reckless big business and their overpaid CEOs seeking tax-payer salvation.
As a part of the Chrysler deal in the late Seventies, the government took out preferred stock warrants and after the company turned itself around and repaid its loan seven years early, the government ended up cashing out, receiving $400 million in the appreciated stock.
And Congress made clear to Chrysler that it had specific conditions the company had to meet before receiving the loan guarantee. It forced the company to contribute $162,500,000 into an employee stock ownership trust fund geared to benefit at least 90 percent of its employees, design more fuel efficient autos to help reduce consumption of foreign oil, and prohibit wages and benefits from falling below a level set three months before the legislation was passed.
Today, congressional actions to grant multi-billion dollar loans to the corporations lack the reciprocity some in Congress demanded 30 years ago. Before Congress irresponsibly dips into the public piggy bank, this time it would be wise to look back at how the government once dealt with Chrysler's dilemma, require clear benchmarks to deliver on the next generation of green collar jobs, improved fuel efficiency and gain a substantial return on its investment, not just in monetary value, but in the long-term viability of the domestic motor vehicle fleet.
Congress needs to call on the auto industry to innovate their way out of this morass into which they've engineered themselves. A sensible strategy would be to issue stock warrants to the government, like in the 70s, which would create an incentive for Congress to keep pressure on the auto industry to improve.
Public Congressional hearings are a must.
Will Congress echo its actions of 30 years ago when it scrutinized corporate demands, grilled company executives, and imposed conditions to ensure fair compensation and safety for workers? Or will Congress continue down the road of corporate servitude, refusing to stand up for workers, consumers, taxpayers and the environment in its session-ending stampede and flight away from auto industry accountabilities?

the new york times
sam dagher
stephen farrell
the los angeles times
tina susman
mcclatchy newspapers
mohammed al dulaimy
leila fadel
ben lando
nprdavid baconnow on pbspbswashington week

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ralph Nader and Cher

Nader to Bring Campaign to Memphis
Thursday, September 18, 2008 at 12:00:00 AM

News Advisory


Contact: Mike Welch, 202-471-5833, (National HQ);Parker Dixon, (901) 574-2191, (local)


On Friday, September 19, at 12 p.m., Independent Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader will host a news conference in Civic Center Plaza in front of the city council building at 125 North Main St., Memphis, TN 38103

Mr. Nader will address many critical issues the major party candidates have taken "off the table" that the Nader/Gonzalez Campaign has put on the table, including:- a comprehensive, negotiated military and corporate withdrawal date from Iraq;- a single-payer, private delivery, free-choice public health insurance system for all;- a living wage and repeal of the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act;- a no-nuke, solar-based energy policy supported by renewable, sustainable, energy-efficient sources;- a carbon tax to deter global warming;- an end to the corporate welfare and corporate crime that has resulted in millions losing pensions, savings and jobs and squandered tax dollars; and,- more direct democracy reflecting the preamble to our constitution which starts with "we the people," and not "we the corporations."

WHO: Ralph Nader

WHAT: Press Conference

WHEN: Friday, September 19, from 12 p.m. - 1 p.m.

WHERE: Civic Center Plaza in front of the city council building at 125 North Main St., Memphis, TN 38103

About Ralph Nader

Attorney, author, and consumer advocate Ralph Nader has been named by Time Magazine one of the "100 Most Influential Americans in the 20th Century." For more than four decades he has exposed problems and organized millions of citizens into more than 100 public interest groups advocating solutions. He led the movement to establish the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and was instrumental in enacting the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and countless other pieces of important consumer legislation. Because of Ralph Nader we drive safer cars, eat healthier food, breathe better air, drink cleaner water, and work in safer environments. Nader graduated from Princeton University and received an LL.B from Harvard Law School.

About Matt Gonzalez

Matt Gonzalez was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2000 representing San Francisco's fifth council district. From 2003 to 2005, he served as Board of Supervisors President. A former public defender, Gonzalez is managing partner of Gonzalez & Leigh, a 7-attorney practice in San Francisco that represents individuals and organizations in mediation, arbitration, and administrative proceedings before state and federal regulatory bodies. Gonzalez graduated from Columbia University and received a JD from Stanford Law School.

About the Nader/Gonzalez Campaign

The Nader/Gonzalez independent presidential candidacy will be on the ballot in 45 states, is polling at 5-6 percent nationally, and a new Time/CNN poll shows Ralph Nader polling 8 percent in New Mexico, 7 percent in Colorado, 7 percent in Pennsylvania, and 6 percent in Nevada -- all key battleground states.For more information on the Nader/Gonzalez campaign, visit:

So that's Ralph in Memphis. I honestly thought they should have called it that: Ralph In Memphis. Like Dusty in Mephis.

That is Dusty Springfield's classic album (available on CD) which includes "Breakfast in Bed." Then I thought of "Walking In Memphis." I really know Cher's version best and think it should be on a Best Of Cher album. Not a greatest hits because it didn't chart that well if at all. (I believe "One to One" was the charting single from that album.)

But a Best Of Cher that covered some of her strongest vocals.

Cher's had a long career so it is really too much to expect to cover her entire career with one disc. So I would guess they'd have to do a decade of. But the 90s only has three albums for Cher. The monster seller Believe, One to One and Love Hurts. So here's my track list for her ten best of the 90s.

1) "Walking in Memphis"

2) "Love and Understanding"

3) "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)" (from Mermaids soundtrack)

4) "Love is the Groove"

5) "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore"

6) "Save Up All Your Tears"

7) "Believe"

8) "I'm Blown Away"

9) "All or Nothing"

10) "Paradise Is Here"

I tried to sequence, in case you missed it. I'll offer up an 80s Best of Cher disc as well.

1) "Perfection"

2) "Just Like Jesse James"

3) "I Found Someone"

4) "You Wouldn't Know Love"

5) "If I Could Turn Back Time"

6) "Does Anybody Really Fall In Love Anymore?"

7) "Main Man"

8) "Heart of Stone"

9) "Love on the Rooftop"

10) "After All" (duet with Peter Cetera)

And the 70s.

1) "Half Breed"

2) "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves"

3) "Dark Lady"

4) "Living in a House Divided"

5) "Train of Thought"

6) "War Paint and Soft Feathers"

7) "Take Me Home"

8) "Mirror Image"

9) "The Way Of Love"

10) "My Song Too Far Gone"

And The Best of Cher 60s:

1) "All I Really Want To Do"

2) "Where Do You Go"

3) "Bang Bang"

4) "Needles & Pins"

5) "Catch The Wind"

6) "You Better Sit Down Kids"

7) "For What It's Worth"

8) "The Cruel War"

9) "Reason To Believe"

10) "Old Man River"

That's four decades. Tomorrow, I'll try to compile it down to 14 tracks and see if it's possible to do a Best of Cher 20th Century.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, September 18, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, a US helicopter crashes, 1 US soldier enters a guilty plea, independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader makes news even when the news outlets don't report it, this weekend's NOW on PBS examines women and politics, and more.

Starting with Tuesday's US House Committee on the Budget's hearing on Iraq's Budget Surplus. We're focused on the first panel where the witness was the Government Accountability Office's Joseph A. Christoff.
Tuesday's snapshot covered some of the statements by the committee chair John Spratt Jr., US House Rep Chet Edwards and US House Rep Lloyd Doggett. Tuesday night, Mike noted some of US House Rep James McGovern's questioning as did Wednesday's snapshot which also noted Bob Etheridge, Dennis Moore and Tim Bishop.

Marion Berry: I also think anytime we have a hearing like this, we should first and foremost recognize the contribution and sacrifice that our men and women in uniform and their families have made and we should never ever fail to be appreciative of that.

Joseph Christoff: Absolutely.

Marion Berry: And show that appreciation in every possible way. As I've listened to this testimony and we can talk about numbers, we can talk about policy and all of those things -- it seems to me that we're in a situation where it reminds me of a bumper sticker you see from time-to-time: "DON'T FOLLOW ME, I'M LOST." You just said a while ago, that there's not a plan. I don't know who doesn't have a plan. It seems to me to be pretty obvious that nobody does. I cannot imagine a more ridiculous situation than we're in right now. I would like to think from some of the things you've said that we may actually have a reasonable expectation that it'll get a little better but at the same time we don't have any reason to think it's going to be cleared up and every thing's going to be in really good shape over there in the next few years. Don't know how you define "few." I'd say anything under five years. But I just -- I don't see any, I'm like Mr. McGovern, I don't see any way to end this. We just keep pouring money into that place. We continue to make deals that no responsible person would enter into, it seems to me. And we thank you for bringing us this information too, at least letting us know what is really going on as best as you're able to determine it and I'm confident that you've done that. And we appreciate all of that. Beyond that, I think it's time for the Congress, the American people, the administration and anyone else in a position of responsibility to being to start figuring out how we're going to get out of there and how we're going to bring this to a conclusion because the American people can't stand much more of it. And I thank you for the work that you've done.

We have two more Democrats to note. Other than Pete Ryan (Ranking Minority Member), Republicans elected to skip to the first panel.

Allyson Schwarts: I also thank you for this information. And it's important for us to be having this hearing today and I thank the chairman for doing it because we -- and in some ways, you're offering suggestion on how we can see our way out of this if we just really look at things really quite differently which is that -- as has been pointed out, you pointed out and many of the speakers before me have pointed out -- we have, we're looking at working with the Iraqis to make sure that they use their almost $80 billion surplus to start spending their money on reconstruction. And I was particularly struck that recently there was a -- I guess it was back in August -- some discussions about rebuilding police stations in Iraq and spending American dollars to do that. I have to say representing the city of Philadelphia and the suburbs, I go to police stations and fire stations all across my district and they need reconstruction. And so instead of a president saying we're going to spend our dollars on reconstructing our police stations and helping our first responders we're spending American dollars on reconstruction in Iraq when the Iraqis are actually sitting on $79 billion. Now you talked about the politics of why it hasn't happened but my question really is how can we -- is there a way for us to, one, start to say -- we've tried to in Congress -- to say Iraqis should start paying for reconstruction. I believe the last bill we passed actually had the condition of their spending 50%

Joseph Christoff: Right.

Allyson Schwartz: -- on going forward on that. Is there anyway that you would actually -- that we could insist upon that happening? Is there a way that we could get back some of these dollars that we're spending now that are committed into the future? We were led to believe several years ago that we would not have to pay for this war at all. And that's been pointed out as well. And yet we are right now spending billions of American tax payer dollars to reconstruct Iraq when Iraq has the money. And adding insult to injury we're spending a whole lot, every American family, on the price of gasoline that we're buying from the Iraqis. I mean something about this picture just isn't right no matter how you feel about this war or our going into it. I've been asked just recently this weekend was asked about how we could -- why we're not doing enough to make sure that we get the Iraqis to spend their money on reconstruction. And I understand the politics of it. And I understand even the difficulties on some of the buerocrats. But even if we lend expertise even if we help them figure out how to do this -- why -- is there more that we could be doing to make sure that going forward the Iraqis are spending their money, particularly the surplus -- $80 billion dollars surplus, rather than the American tax payer on reconstruction of basic infrastructure for the Iraqi people which we all agree needs to get done. But why not the Iraqis? And why is this administration -- that's political. What could we be doing even from your perspective to make sure that going forward this is really a changed world, we're not spending American tax dollars on reconstruction, the Iraqis are?

Joseph Christoff: Well let's just talk about this concept of trying to get repayment for perhaps what we did. I think we began in 2004 with good intentions. With good intentions to the fact that the Iraqis at that time did not have the resources. So when you appropriated the $18.4 billion dollars in IRRF 2 (Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund) it was "to jump start the reconstruction process" under two premises that generaly did not pan out. One that it would be a benign environment where you could do reconstruction without violence and secondly the Iraqis would step up to the plate and third the international community would contribute. Those premises never really panned out until quite frankly recently where we see the Iraqis now have a substantial amount of money. I shouldn't say recently. They had surpluses in '05, '06 and '07 as well because they didn't spend on the investments.

Allyson Y. Schwartz: But you're making a good point, if things are more secure if the issues around violence allows them to do some of this reconstrutcion without spending so many dollars on security can we actually get them to both repay us and get them to pay going forward?

Joseph Christoff: Yeah, I don't know if we want to take back our generous contributions to try to jump start -- because I thought they were good intentions back in 2004. But again going forward I do think you should have the healthy debate about cost sharing. And you began it with the roughly three billion dollars that you put and the restrictions you put on the economic support fund -- that it should be a dollar for dollar cost sharing. The State Department in two weeks has to send a report to the Congress certifying that the Iraqis are engaged in cost sharing on the ESF so it will be interesting to see exaclty how the State Department can confirm that that is actually occurring

Allyson Y. Schwartz: I should say not just interesting but also important to our financial security here at home and to respond to the Amercian people that we've actually said that there had to be cost sharing dollar for dollar and it will be important for us to see that that is actually happening going forward. And of course we'd like to see at some point the Iraqis pick up much more of the reconstruction if not all of it.

The last Congress member to question Christoff was Marcy Kaptur. Pay close attention to his final answer to her. She's asking for very basic information, stats and figures (including arrests) and that information, according to Christoff, isn't public. It recalls his earlier comment to House Rep Tim Bishop who merely asked about the possible impact of the de-Baathifcation legislation (passed but not implemented) which resulted in Christoff informing Bishop that it was classified information he could not reveal in an open hearing. What are the possible effects of that legislation -- labeled a benchmark by the White House -- can't be made public. Now Bishop and Kaptur both have clearance. They can get the information as members of Congress. But what Christoff's testimony repeatedly underscored was how much information is being kept from the American people.

Marcy Kaptur: I've been looking over one of the charts that we've been provided that shows the increase in spending by the people of the United States on the war in Iraq and I think everyone knows that every year it gets larger. I remember Secretary [Paul] Wolfowitz coming up before our defense committee saying that we didn't have to worry about this because it would all be paid for. Well, where is he now? I have no idea where he is but he certainly wasn't correct in those statements which I think influenced a lot of the members of this Congress to vote in the way that they did. But one of the bits of information that I have here, that I want you to clarify for me deals with the, what appears to me to be two structures operating in Iraq -- one by the United States and one by the government of Iraq. It says: "While the United States has spent 70% of the $33 billion that it has allocated for key security, oild, water and electricity sectors." In other words, we're spending down the money that the American people have allocated for this. Iraq has only spent 14% of the $28 billion it allocated to those sectors or less than 3% of the 10 billion that it had programmed from the year 2005 to 2008. So as I read these numbers and I'm looking at the expenditure of our dollars and we look at how much we have spent versus how much they have spent, it seems to me then that there may be two structures operating in Iraq: The American paid for structure and then the Iraqi structure. Because how could the Iraqis be doing such a poor job? Is my perception correct that in fact there are two structures operating there?

Joseph Christoff: Well in terms of the --

Marcy Kaptur: For electricity, for water, for oil and security>

Joseph Christoff: Well in terms of how things are spent, obviously when the US spends its money, the majority of that is being spent through the Corp of Engineers -- they've been the big builder using US appropriated dollars. So they're using Corp of Engineering contracting, procurement, budgeting procedures. When you look at how the Iraqi government is spending its resources, it's going through its own ministries -- oil and electricity, water -- to try to do the types of contracting and procurement. So yes there are seperate procedures because there are seperate pots of money.

Marcy Kaptur: I appreciate that because if in fact oil production has gone up it's been because of US expenditures because obviously the Iraqi expenditures aren't locking in.

Joseph Christoff: Right. Most of the money on oil infrastructure has been the US funding.

Marcy Kaptur: Then why would Iraq sign its first contract with China? You have any --

Joseph Christoff: I don't know.

Marcy Kaptur: -- clarity on that?

Joseph Christoff: No.

Marcy Kaptur: And Royal Dutch Petroleum, Royal Dutch/Shell is the next one they signed a deal with? I just find all of this very, very strange. Could you also tell me in terms of the sabatoge and the smuggling --

Joseph Christoff: Mmh-hmm

Marcy Kaptur: -- it's estimated by some that at least a third of what is occurring in the oil sector -- and again, it's unclear to me who is really managing the oil sector? Is it the US dollars that have been allocated or is it the Iraqi dollars that really have a handle on what is happening in the oil sector? But regardless, if you have any comments on that I would appreciate it, of the dollars being expended, why is so much being smuggled out of there? Who doesn't have control of what's happening in the oil fields?

Joseph Christoff: Well I think actually the smuggling and the diversions have declined over the past couple years. The biggest problem that occurred back in 2006 was massive smuggling -- estimates of up to two million dollars out of the Baiji refinery because there was not sufficient protection forces around it. The US and the Iraqi government have responded by putting more protection forces around the majory refinery in Iraq at Baiji and also trying to set up these oil facility police forces that are trying to manage and protect the oil pipelines and the infrastructures particularly in the north. But there are still interdictions that are occuring because you can't cover everything and --

Marcy Kaptur: May I ask you, sir, who hires those security officers for those oil installations?

Joseph Christoff: Yeah, right now it's the Ministry of OIl but it's supposed to eventually be subsumed in the Ministry of Interior's police forces

Marcy Kaptur: But if we look at the expenditure of Iraqi dollars to do all of this, it looks like the US contracted operations are spending their dollars down without them, Iraq wouldn't be able to function. Am I correct? If you just pulled the US contracts and llet them fly on their own.

Joseph Christoff: Well we have lots of reconstruction projects in all of the critical sectors including the oil sector so we have been investing over the past several years in trying to build pipelines, trying to improve the refinery capacity -- a lot of individual projects have added up to billions of dollars. The Iraqis are trying to spend more money in terms of the oil sector. One of the problems with the Ministry of Oil is that, unlike the Ministry of Electricity, it has not developed any type of a plan to determine what its needs are, its priorities and exactly where it should be spending its future resources. And the Ministry of Electricity has a pretty good plan. The Ministry of Oil does not yet have a plan to try to set its own priorities. And he himself has estimated that he needs $30 billion to try to improve the oil infrastructure in Iraq.

Marcy Kaptur: I know my time has expired. If I wanted to read one clear report on what is really going on inside the Iraqi oil sector what would I read?

Joseph Christoff: Inside the Iraqi oil sector?

Marcy Kaptur: For security officers. Who's paying for it, how much is being smuggled, who did the smuggling, was anybody aprehended? Where do I find that?

Joseph Christoff: Well I'd probably have to go back to some of the CIA reports that I read that you wouldn't be able to read in public domain.

Marcy Kaptur: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Again, Kaptur is asking for very basic information. She's not asking for information on how to build a weapon. Stats is all she's asking for and she's informed that the information isn't for the public. The operations Christoff is reporting on are paid for by the tax payer and the tax payer is repeatedly told that things are 'improving' in Iraq. So why is very basic information being kept from the tax payers. And if, dropping back to Bishop's question, the US anticipates that there will be some awful bloodbath as a result of the de-Baathification legislation, since the White House has labeled it a benchmark and since it has yet to be put into effect, shouldn't both the American people and the Iraqi people have a right to know the projections that have been made on that?

Turning to Iraq, last night
CNN reported that a helicopter has crashed in Iraq claiming the lives of 5 US service members. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) said the death toll is "seven U.S. soldiers" and cites M-NF as the source. M-NF updated it today announcing: "Seven U.S. Soldiers were killed when a CH-47 Chinook crashed about 100 km west of Basra at approximately 12:01 a.m. Thursday. The Chinook was part of a four-aircraft aerial convoy flying from Kuwait to Balad. The seven Soldiers were the only ones onboard the Chinook at the time of the crash. A British Quick Reaction Force team was dispatched from Basra to assist at the site. A road convoy in the vicinity was also diverted to the scene.
The names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of next of kin and official release by the Department of Defense The incident is under investigation, however enemy activity is not suspected." The
Washington Post notes, "There was no word on the cause of the crash or whether hostile fire was involved." Camilla Hall and Michael Heath (Bloomberg News) report that the military is now publicly stating that this should be considered "an accident" on their 'initial' information but that the US military added, "At this time we are uncertain of the cause, but hostile fire has been ruled out." Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) observes, "In total, that means 11 U.S. service members have died since Sunday for non-combat-related reasons" while noting the helicopter crash itself "was the deadliest U.S. helicopter accident in Iraq since Aug. 22 of last year, when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in the northern part of the country, killing 14 U.S. soldiers."
Joseph Giordono (Stars & Stripes) notes, "The AP reported that an aide to U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Okla., said four Texans and three from Oklahoma were among the seven National Guardsmen killed in [the helicopter crash[ . . . Fallin's spokesman Alex Weintz says the four Texans killed were soldiers from the Texas National Guard." ICCC lists 4168 as the number of US service members killed since the start of the illegal war with 17 for the month thus far.

On shootings,
yesterday's snapshot noted: "Meanwhile, AP reports that Staff Sgt. Darris J. Dawson and Sgt. Wesley R. Durbin's deaths on Sunday in Iraq are under investigation and a US soldier 'has been taken into custody' due to the deaths. Troy Moon (Pensacola News Journal) reports that Dawson was 'a father of four' and a graduate of Escambia High and quotes his stepmother Maxine Mathis stating, 'It's bad enough he had to fear the enemy. But he had to fear a fellow soldier. This is senseless. Not only did (the alleged shooter) take our son's life, he took another man's life as well. It's just horrible. I want people to know what happened.'' Chris Vaughn (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) reports that Durbin was from Dallas and 'an honor student and 2001 gradute of Dallas Luterhan School. He volunteered in the Civil Air Patrol in high school, then joined the Marines. After he left the Marine Corps, he joined the Army two years ago'." Greg Mitchell (Editor & Publisher) notes the silence on this story and then amends an AP story at the end which, please note, raids Troy Moon's report and does so without credit. Today Nicholas Spangler (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that Dawson was on his third tour of duty and that his stepmother (Maxine Mathis) states, "He was telling me about these nightmares he'd have. He'd wake up in a cold sweat, seeing the things he was seeing over there. It really was messing with my son's mind." NYT's Stephen Farrell (for the Times' owned International Herald Tribune) explains that April of 2005 saw "Seargent Hasan Akbar, of the 101st Airborne Division, was sentenced to death over a grenade attack on his comrades in March 2003 in Kuwait, at the very outset of the war" and "In November 2006, Staff Seargent Alberto Martinez, serving with the New York National Guard, was arraigned in a military court suspected of murdering two officers in a grenade and mine explosion at one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces in Tikrit in June 2005. He has consistently maintained his innocence but if convicted could face the death penalty." Yesterday's snapshot also included this: "BBC reports that Sgt John Hatley, Sgt 1st Class Joseph Mayo and Sgt Michael Lehy Jr. are charged with murdering four Iraqis ('blindfolded, shot and dumped in a canal in April 2007'). . . . CBC notes, 'The killings are alleged to have been retribution for casualties suffered by U.S. forces.' CBC also states that four more are being held and are under investigation (with two of the four US soldiers having been charged). AP, however, says the four additional soldiers 'have already been charged with conspiracy in the case'." None of those three soldiers charged with murder has entered a plea but one of the four charged with conspiracy has: Spc Belmor Ramos. AP reports that
Ramos "pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder and was sentenced to seven months in prison Thursday in the deaths of four Iraqis, saying he stood guard from a machine-gun turret while the bound and blindfolded prisoners were shot."

In some of today's reported violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 Baghdad roadside bombings that left twelve people wounded (including five Iraqi soldiers), a Nineveh roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers (one more wounded) and, dropping back to last night, a Nineveh car bombing that wounded one police officer. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers, 2 Tal Afar roadside bombings that left nine people injured and a Hawija roadside bombing that left two people injured.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a man shot dead in Mosul and his wife and daughter injured in the shooting and 1 person shot dead in Nineveh province. Reuters notes a Mosul home invasion that claimed 4 lives and 2 drive-by shootings in Mosul that each claimed the life of a "retired security personnel".


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 3 corpse discovered in Mosul.

Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate. Matt Gonzalez is his running mate.
Yesterday the campaign was able to announce that Nader - Gonzales was on the ballot in Florida (officially). Today they announce Nader made 46 ballots. That is the 45 states ballots they set as their goal (and achieved before their self-declared deadline) as well as the ballot in the District of Columbia. Team Nader notes that residents of Texas, Georgia, Indiana and North Carolina will be able to vote for Nader - Gonzalez via write-in which means the residents of 49 states (and DC) can vote for them. The 45 state ballots is eleven more than in 2004 and one more than in 2000. The Nader campaign's Michael Richardson explains, "This means 85 percent of the American electorate will actually see the names Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez on their ballots. . . . This is quite a feat since states generally make it really hard for third-party candidates to get on state ballots. But in every state, our volunteers collected more than enough signatures to qualify. The response has been positive -- much better than in 2004. It's obvious that there is national interest in more choices and independent candidates outside the two-party system." Tomorrow the Nader - Gonzalez campaign holds a rally in Lousiville, Kentucky (6:30 p.m., University of Louisville, Swain Student Activities Center, Suite W310).

Team Nader notes:

I have always been skeptical when people blame a lack of news coverage on some nefarious plot by the media. Most people who cry media 'blackout' aren't that newsworthy, have stories that don't check out, or don't pitch their story that well. The truth is, unless you have a compelling, timely, well pitched story, today's media will not cover it. They are too burdened by ever tighter web-driven deadlines, fewer reporting staff, and the barrage of sophisticated public relations professionals who definitely do know how to pitch a story, and outnumber reporters 5-to-1. But after a full week working as Ralph Nader's media coordinator, I have a new perspective.The story of the decade is breaking, we have the candidate of the century on this story--and we are getting no coverage by major media.After years of neglect, deregulation, and sharp declines in corporate transparency and corporate accountability, the gig is up and Wall Street is being shaken to its foundations. What has already happened towers over the savings and loan crisis, and we are not even close to the end, or even the beginning of the end. The Wall Street bailouts and wipe outs are on track to be the biggest frontal assault on financial consumers and taxpayers in history. Ralph Nader, America's undisputed protector of consumers, has uncannily tracked the chain of events--on the documented public record--that has led our economy down this devastating path. In countless letters, testimonies and reports--all warning of the dangers of unrestrained greed absent accountability and transparency (check for yourself at, Ralph proposed alternative paths, and all along the way he was ignored or ridiculed. Now he has a plan to soften the blow, get us out of the morass, and help ensure it doesn't happen again. But no major press will cover it. No New York Times. No Wall Street Journal. No Associated Press. No network news. Nothing but a pundit on C-Span, kudos from a newsletter and a little article on the web site Politico. The September 16th Washington Post summed up the gravity of this issue on its front page: "Yesterday's meltdown on Wall Street brought the economy roaring back to the center of the presidential campaign, and the question for the final seven weeks of the general-election campaign is whether Barack Obama or John McCain can convince voters that he is capable of leading the country out of the morass." If the meltdown on Wall Street and bailout by taxpayers is the deciding factor of this election:
Which candidate has the best record for consumer protection, standing up for small investors and taxpayers in America?
Which candidate has been warning us all along the way of the dangers of deregulating Wall Street?
Which candidate has a plan to get us out of this morass, restore accountability and transparency to Wall Street, and can actually be trusted to do what he says?
His name is not Barack Obama or Senator McCain, and he is invisible as far as the media is concerned. Yesterday, Ralph Nader issued a chronology of the lead-up to the current meltdown, and his ten-point plan to restore a semblance of accountability, transparency, and incentives that would steer Wall Street away from short-termist, out-of-control casino capitalism toward fulfilling its proper function of efficiently allocating capital to advance our long-term economic well-being. The plan was sent out to 6,000 reporters, including specific e-mails and phone calls to the editors and reporters from the major newspapers that are on this beat and evening TV news producers. Aside from the Fox cable business channel, no major media picked it up. After a series of editorial board meetings we did this week with the Washington Post and New York Times Washington Bureau, I think I know why. When we asked them what their standards for covering Ralph Nader were, it was clear they didn't have any. But Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor at the Washington Post, hit the nail on the head. He said, "I like some of your issues, but I don't see how you being a presidential candidate affects them. I see you more as a consumer advocate." In other words, if Ralph was just some guy running for president on the ballot in 45 states with 5 percent support in the polls, he might actually get some coverage in that role, rather than having his giant stature as a consumer advocate trivialize his presidential candidate stature. So today, when AP broke a story that the Federal bank insurance fund was dwindling and in danger of needing a taxpayer bailout, I tried taking Fred up on his advice and pitched to the economic editors and financial reporters, emphasizing 'Ralph the consumer advocate.' It happened that just two months ago Ralph wrote a letter to Chris Dodd and Barney Frank, who have oversight over the FDIC, warning of exactly this and suggesting some measures to shore up the FDIC reserves before it was too late. As usual Congress dismissed Ralph's warning, with Congressman Spencer Bachus saying there was "no factual basis" for his concern. Six years ago, Ralph warned of the potential shakeout from Clinton giving most of the commercial banks free federal deposit insurance since 1995, saying, "Don't be surprised if this latest banking reform deteriorates into little more than another version of the savings and loan deposit insurance reforms of 1980 which helped fuel that industry's demise and lightened taxpayers' pockets by several hundred billions of dollars."Here we have a substantive story where Ralph is right in the sweet spot from the beginning of the problem to the present. I phoned up Marcy Jones, the AP SEC reporter who had broken the story to let her know Ralph had called it six years back, and that he now had a plan to fix it. But Marcy didn't want to hear from Ralph either, and referred to me to the political desk. I called the AP Washington Politics Editor, Donna Cassata, with great enthusiasm, saying "Now I have something that is too good to pass on." But she passed.The Wall Street meltdown story has Ralph Nader's name all over it, and as a candidate or as a consumer advocate he should be getting an avalanche of requests and invitations--not a stone-wall. That's ok. This story is not going away and neither are we. If need be, our supporters will overwhelm the political and economic editors and producers, taking the public relations professional-to-journalist ratio to a new order of magnitude.In the mean time, thank goodness for our Cardozo the Parrot video, which goes to show that even sheep cannot ignore a talking bird.

Team Nader then links to
this Washington Post piece by Chris Cillizza. Staying with politics, this weekend's NOW on PBS offers:

How have women in politics changed America and the world? NOW on PBS investigates with an hour-long special hosted by Maria Hinojosa: "Women, Power and Politics: A Rising Tide?"See the show on television this weekend or
[. . .]
Show Description: Given the hoopla surrounding Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton's historical political ascendance, why does the U.S. rank so low among countries for percentage of women holding national office? On Friday, September 19 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), in a one-hour special, NOW's Maria Hinojosa talks to women leaders around the world and here in the United States for an intimate look at the high-stakes risks, triumphs, and setbacks for women leaders of today and tomorrow. Among these women are President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, the first woman leader in Latin America who did not have a husband precede her as President, and former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen, now in a tight race for a seat in the U.S. Senate.We also travel to Rwanda, where, 14 years after a horrific massacre left nearly one million people dead, women make up nearly half of parliament; and to Manhattan, where ambitious high school girls are competing in a high-stakes debate tournament."Women, Power and Politics," is also about the personal journey of mother and award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa as she strives to answer the question: "What does to mean to be a woman in power?"Watch a preview and excerpt of this special program at
this web address:Use this directory tool to find out where the show is airing in your area: The NOW website ... will feature web-exclusive commentary from noteworthy women including Maria Bartiromo, Sandra Cisneros, and Tina Brown; a personal essay from Maria Hinojosa; an interactive debate over Sarah Palin's candidacy; as well as opportunities for all women to post and share their stories of ambition, success, and discouragement.(The "interactive debate" over Sarah Palin's candidacy is live now ...)

troy moongreg mitchell
the washington postsudarsan raghavan
mcclatchy newspapers
camilla hall
nicholas spanglersahar issa
stephen farrell
now on pbspbs

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Still on 80s movies

You will not believe this Washington Post headline, "Democrats' Drilling Bill Angers Environmental Purists." Yeah, those damn purists who don't want to destroy the environment by drilling offshore. Now I know New York doesn't give a damn about pollution (see the Hudson River), but you'd think Wash Post would have a little more awareness. Guess not, huh?

Yesterday's post about "I Love The 80's!" movies led to a lot of questions. I wish I could answer them! I think I saw When Harry Met Sally. I know I saw Mel Brooks' Space Balls. There were some action films and there were some really bad comedies. There was a three set (same price as a single, I believe) that had One Crazy Summer and two other real losers. I can make it through One Crazy Summer, not trying to suggest it's a classic, just noting that the other two were even worse.

I remember Ferris Bueller's Day Off being there. That's a movie you can watch several times. The website is and you can probably find a listing there. (The web address is on the insert inside the DVD.) So if you don't have a Target near you and there's a DVD you want, there's a way to get one.

Okay, the website shows Urban Cowboy. I didn't see that at Target. I would have gotten that because I love Debra Winger. I did see An Officer and a Gentleman at Target but don't see it at the website. I remember because I love Debra in that but wouldn't get it because that was a nightmare from hell shoot for her. The website shows Top Gun and that might have been one of the action films I ignored at Target. It also shows Pretty in Pink and Planes and Trains and Automobiles. I'm sure there's more that's not on the main page, but that's a sample.

In The Spirit? I had four e-mails about that. No. I didn't see it. As far as I know the only way you can get a copy of that on DVD is to do what C.I. did and get the videotaped dubbed to DVD. In The Spirit really is a funny movie. It's one we watch a lot of Sundays after finishing at Third. Marlo Thomas and Elaine May are amazing in it and so is Olympia Dukakis in a small role but I think the best of the small roles is Melanie Griffith.

Three asked about Risky Business. I didn't see one. But I did see R rated movies so they may have it. Oh, I saw The Verdict. With Paul Newman. I hate that movie. It's so long and dull and we're supposed to cheer Newman hitting a woman.

Airplane was a question and they do have it on the website but I didn't see it at the store. Love At First Bite was another question in e-mails. Didn't see it at the store. That's also a 70s movie, by the way. But Susan St. James is so funny. I wish she'd do another TV show.

So I'm calling this a post. Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, September 17, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, we drop back to more from the budget hearing on Iraq, the US military announces more deaths, a US soldier is charged with killing two fellow soldiers, more US soldiers are charged in the deaths of Iraqis, and more.

Yesterday's snapshot noted the House Committee on the Budget's hearing on Iraq's Budget Surplus and since the hearing's gotten so little attention, we'll note some more of it. (Ironically, Katrina vanden Heuvel's insisting that it's time to 'get real' but to read anything at The Nation is to grasp Katrina's as ignored at The Nation as she is in the rest of the world. Katha Pollitt's 'getting real' about the issues by writing about . . . castrating bulls.) US House Rep John Spratt Jr. chairs the committee with Paul Ryan being the Ranking Member of the Republican Party. The first panel is our focus and that was when the committee heard testimony from the Government Accounting Office's Joseph A. Christoff. Spratt noted that while the US budget deficit was "expected to exceed $400 billion for the current fiscal year," Iraq is expected to see a huge budget surplus in the billions. Christoff explained that the estimate for Iraq's surplus this year is between $67 billion and $79 billion dollars. US House Rep Chet Edwards was noted yesterday and he highlighted the physical costs to the US (the lives of US service men and women), the financial cost, the predictions by then Dept. Sec of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in 2003 that Iraq would be paying "for its own reconstruction" and the new $3 billion dollar deal Iraq had just signed with the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation. US House Rep Lloyd Doggett was also noted yesterday and he wanted to focus on the failure of the benchmarks -- set by the White House. Christoff wanted to dicker with Doggett over this so Doggett used his time to go through as many as possible to illustrate that the benchmarks are not being met. He noted at the end, "And I see my time's up but, Mr. Chairman, we can keep going down the objectives that President Bush set himself for success, for victory, in Iraq and you'll find that it continues to fail, that this policy has been a failure. American tax payers are having to fund the failure while the Iraqis pay a fraction of the price we pay for a gallon of gasoline." Last night, Mike noted some of US House Rep James McGovern's testimony and we'll note some of the hearing beginning with McGovern.

James P. McGovern: And the government of Iraq, the Maliki government, I know that you didn't look at the issue of corruption, but it is corrupt. I wouldn't trust them to tell me the correct time. . . . And we're hearing people kind of rationalizing and explaining away why they don't need to spend their surplus, you know why we need to continue to shoulder the burden. Why would the Iraqi government want to change this sweet deal that they have with the US government? We are a cheap date in this whole matter. I mean we are giving and giving and giving and sacrificing and sacrificing and sacrificing and yet they have this incredible surplus. So what are the incentives and what should we be doing, what should this administration be doing, what should Congress be doing, to kind of force this issue? You have obviously talked to the people in the administration and people in the department. What is the plan? What is the plan to kind of, to transition, to kind of force the Iraqi government's hand, you know, to take more responsibility that we can get out, we can end our occupation, we can end our involvement here and stop sacrificing so much of our resources in this effort?

Joseph Christoff: Uhm, I don't know if I've seen a plan that would actually talk about transitioning so that the Iraqis begin spending more money. But I think you all have begun that debate within the Congress. As I mentioned before, when you passed a portion of the supplemental in June you had about $3 billion for what's called the Economic Support Fund. That was the first time that there was legislation that called for Iraq to have a dollar for dollar cost share for the small reconstruction projects that this ESF fund supports. I also know that in part of the NDA discussion there is discussion about also extending that type of cost-sharing to what we provide for the continued training and equipping of Iraq security forces. That area alone, we've appropriated -- you've appropriated -- $20 billion dollars.

James P. McGovern: Well I realize that's a step in the right direction but quite frankly it's kind of a modest -- less than modest -- step in the right direction. We've been doing this for years now, we've been involved in this war for many years. Nothing, absolutely nothing, about this war has turned out as advertised by the proponents of this war and it just seems to me that given the nature of the Iraqi government, given the problem of corruption in that government and given what I believe is an unwillingness to take more responsibility in light of the fact that they don't need to. I mean, again, we're spending $10 billion a month. Ten billion dollars a month in Iraq and they have these surpluses. I guess my frustration is that there isn't more frustration by those who -- proponents of this war to force the Iraqi government's hand to take more responsibility. But I appreciate your testimony. I think it's very helpful.

Next up was US House Rep Bob Etheridge.

Bob Etheridge: I guess as I look at that and think of the numbers and where we are, I happen to represent a lot of men and women at Fort Bragg and Pope [Air Force Base] who spent an awful lot of time oversees. At the same time, their children attend the public schools here in the United States and my question, I think, sort of fits in a little different area than what we've heard as you've mentioned we're spending about $10 billion a month of US revenues in Iraq and your report tells us that Iraqi government is not spending its own funds to maintain these reconstruction projects at a level they should. Actually only about 14% of the 28 that's allocated for security, water, oil, electricity, etc. And we have a myriad of spending needs here at home. I won't even go through the list, I just want to talk about one of them because we need to be building some school buildings in and around my district [second district of North Carolina] where we've got children in trailers and we've got one school that has 50% of our military children in buildings that ought to be able to have modern buildings. My question to you is what factors are keeping the Iraqis from taking more responsibility for its own reconstruction? And how can we address that problem or how should we address it?

Joseph Christoff: Well the factors that were cited in terms of their low expenditure rates for investment -- that's for reconstruction -- were the fact, again, that they have weak procurement budgeting, contracting procedures in place, they have low thresholds in terms of the approving authorities. They have to go the highest levels to get actually approving authority for the contracting. They have a brain drain in terms of the many technocrats that left the country that were responsible for many of these budgeting procurement issues. I've spoken with DoD advisors to the Iraqi Ministries of Defense and Interior. They have difficulties just teaching basic accounting and spreadsheet technology to some of the Iraqis. And also keep in mind, this is a cash-based economy. Things are done by cash. They have hand ledgers to keep track. There is not -- there is not an automated financial management sytem in place within Iraq.

Bob Etheridge: I think the thing that bothers me and I think a lot of folks who remember, you know the US tax payers have financed nearly $50 billion in Iraqi reconstruction in addition to all the other funds we've put in place and now we're spending about 10 billion a month and at the same time we see almost 80 billion in surplus. And then I'm reminded, and I think most folks are, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said in 2003 that the Iraqis could pay for reconstruction themselves and relatively soon. And I think we have a chart here, chart one, that shows that. Now it's quite obvious he was wrong or overstated or something because we pay twice. We've paid a 50 billion dollar reconstruction bill and now we're spending 10 billion a month and we're paying billions of dollar at the pump with gasoline. Is this a fair assessment? I mean, I just this weekend had people climb on my shoulders and I don't disagree with them. They are paying a ridiculous price for gasoline and at the same time in Iraq they're subsidizing their citizens and we're paying more for it over there to keep our troops in Iraq.

Joseph Christoff: Well I think in terms of the Secretary's original statement Iraq does have now the capabilities to begin financing its reconstruction. It didn't have it in the part of 2003 or 2004. When you're talking about paying at the pump . . . Now I mentioned the $1.18 per gallon but frankly that's the price in the region. That's what Kuwaitis pay, Saudis pay. So the IMF goal was to try to get them to raise their prices to at least the regional level and they have dramatically reduced their subsidies for gasoline, kerosene and diesel. Trying to give them a little bit of credit for their achievements.
Bob Etheridge: But my concern is that our troops aren't getting that benefit over there and we aren't getting it in terms of paying for it by the American citizens buying that fuel to help protect them.

Joseph Christoff: Yeah I think in fact that when we look at receipts where Iraq actually sold its oil about a third of the oil did come to the United States.

Etheridge's time was up and Moore went next.

Dennis Moore: Do you know the projected United States' deficit for this year?
Joseph Christoff: Well the latest CBO was approaching over $400 billion

Dennis Moore: So we are approaching, according to CBO projection, a $400 billion deficit as a nation to add to our 9.6 trillion debt now is that correct?

Joseph Christoff: Based upon what I read in the CBO projections that correct.

Dennis Moore: And Iraq has a projected surplus this year of $70 billion dollars?

Joseph Christoff: Up to $79 billion.

Dennis Moore: Up to $79 billion. What's wrong with this picture that we have a huge projected deficit, they have a good projected surplus and they're asking us basically to pay for reconstruction in Iraq? I guess I'm asking a rhetorical question because I think you've already answered that. What incentive, from your perspective, does the Iraqi government have to step up and assume responsibility for this if they've got us paying for everything right now? Not only money, but 4,000 American lives.

Joseph Christoff: Well I think that remains a concern in terms of how you incentivize the Iraqi government to begin spending of its own money. The incentives are also going to have to come on the part of the Iraqi people. They are still only getting about ten hours of electricity a day. They're still not getting potable water. Only a third of the children in Iraq have clean water even despite our reconstruction efforts. So there has to be some incentivizing on the part of the Iraqi people to demand more from their own government.

Dennis Moore: And the Iraqi people have to step up to the plate and support their own government, don't they?

Joseph Christoff: Mmm-hmm.

Dennis Moore: If anything's going to change here?

Joseph Christoff: Yes.

Dennis Moore: But they do have gasoline for $1.18 a gallon and we have gasoline for $3.50 a gallon in this country. Is that about right?

Joseph Christoff: I bet disiel cars pay a little bit more.

Dennis Moore: Good. Good. And so basically right now what we're doing -- and this is the last question I have -- we're just charging the reconstruction cost to our national charge card and passing the bill on to our children and grandchildren and future generations in this country, isn't that correct?

Joseph Christoff: Well we have spent -- you have appropriated $48 billion for reconstruction and stabilization

Dennis Moore: Yes sir.

Joseph Christoff: Of the big infrastructure projects are tapering off so the additional money you've been providing through the economic support fund is for smaller reconstruction projects. But we still have spent a chunk of change in trying to rebuild that country.

Tim Bishop went next and note that when Moore was saying "Good. Good." he was also attempting to shut off his cell phone which had begun ringing,

Tim Bishop: My understanding, the first Iraq War, total cost was about $61 billion. The net cost to the United States was about $2.1 billion. And the difference between gross cost and net cost was in some cases in-kind contributions from some of our coalition partners and in other case our coalition partners simply reimbursed us for monies that we laid out. Does that comport with your understanding?

Joseph Christoff: I don't know sir. I know we did reports back in 91 and 92 in which we saw that -- we actually made a bit of a profit on the last war?

Tim Bishop: I won't comment. What structural and/or legal impediments exist right now -- if any -- that would prevent Iraq from simply reimbursing us from their surplus for some portion of what we have already laid out?

Joseph Christoff: I don't know. I would have to look into that and perhaps get back to you for the record.
Tim Bishop: Does that not represent a reasonable course of action for this country? To try to recoup some of the enormous amounts that we have laid out while Iraq is sitting on this very substantial surplus?

Joseph Christoff: Sir, I would think that was a policy decision that I would reserve to the Congress because I don't think it's appropriate for GAO to comment.

Tim Bishop: Secondly, if I understand your summary correctly, Iraq has spent approximately $4.3 billion dollars over a three year period on its reconstruction and on provision of services, is that about right?

Joseph Christoff: The $4.3 billion dollars is for the four critical sectors that we looked at.

Tim Bishop: And we have spent about $42 billion?

Joseph Christoff: Well that's $42 billion in total for all of our reconstruction.

Tim Bishop: For reconstruction --

Joseph Christoff: Beyond those four sectors.

Tim Bishop: So if I've done my math correctly, $42 billion -- every dime of which has been borrowed -- the annual interst on that is about 2.2 billion dollars or there about, if I've done my math correctly. And Iraq is spending less than that on an annual basis for four critical areas so we're spending more on interest on the amount we've borrowed to rebuild their country than they are spending in total to rebuild their country on an annual basis?

Joseph Christoff: I'm from an accountability organization. I'd have to take your numbers and go back and check them.

Tim Bishop: Okay.

Joseph Christoff: Before I could comment on them.

Tim Bishop: These are back of the envelope numbers, I acknowledge but they appear to be consistent with what you have reported. One last thing. You and Ranking Member Ryan were engaged in a bit of a discussion about budget execution.

Joseph Christoff: Mmm-hmm.

Tim Bishop: To what extent do you believe that the decision to de-Baathify which deprived the Iraqi government of in effect a professional civil servant class, to what extent do you believe that decision has contributed to their inability to execute their budget plans?

Joseph Christoff: De-Baathi -- Were you going to interject?

That was said not to Rep Bishop who had the floor but to Republican Ranking Member Paul Ryan.

Paul Ryan: I just wanted to tack onto that because I think it's an excellent question. Mr. Bishop, do you mind if I just tack onto the end of that question?

Tim Bishop: No, I would just like to --

Paul Ryan: It's a good question! And the question is are any of these technocrats coming back now that the de-Baathifcation reforms have passed? I'd like to know if you'd track that as well.

Joseph Christoff: Sure. De-Baathifcation certainly was a factor in terms of the brain drain that has resulted in the lack of the kind of technocrats that Iraq needs for these ministry capacity -- for budgeting, procurement and contracting. Those type of Sunni technocrats are part of the over 2 million refugees in Syria and Jordan. The extent to which they're coming back, it's a very small amount. Ambassador Foley said two days ago that only about 16,000 of the 2 million refugees have actually returned to Iraq. I know I met some doctors when I was in Syria who wanted to return but they have no intentions of returning until they believe that the security situation is improved and they got a house.

Tim Bishop: One final question, you presided over the report that assessed performances on the benchmarks

Joseph Christoff: Yes, sir.

Tim Bishop: And one of those benchmarks was moving away from de-Baathification and restoring people to their jobs.

Joseph Christoff: Right.

Tim Bishop: In Mr. [Lawrence] Korb's [prepared] testimony [Korb would speak on the panel that followed], I don't know whether you've had the opportunity to see it, he makes the point that the current effort to address de-Baathification may well result in fewer Baath Party members working in the government under the new law than under the old law. To what extent did you address that point in your assessment of the benchmark?

Joseph Christoff: Two parts in answering that question. First of all, Iraq did pass a de-Baathification law which they passed in February.

Tim Bishop: The point of my question is what is the impact or ethicacy of that law?

Joseph Christoff: When we issued our progress report in June we had classified information that discussed that very issue that I could provide later for the record but I could not provide in an open session.
That's nearly the entire hearing. (First panel.) We can come back to it tomorrow and catch the rest of the Democrats if that's wanted. As for Iraqis supporting the puppet government, an
Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy provides (at Inside Iraq) a strong example of how the 'government' does not represent the Iraqi people, "Yesterday, a force from the Iraqi army came to my neighborhoods to evacuate the governmental flats where about 600 families live in. One of my neighbors tried to inquire about the evacuation order. He asked the army force 'why does the army implement the evacuation orders? This is not the duty of the army'. The question developed into an argument and the soldiers lost their mind because they didn't use to listen but they used to beat, fight and kill. They beat my neighbor violently to give a lesson to others to obey and execute only 'Execute and then discusses' Although this rule belongs to Baath Party but it is still valid, effective and basic rule for the new democratic regime in new Iraqi state. The army who attacked and killed Iraqis in north and south of Iraq during the nineties is still playing the same role in the new democratic Iraq. It is still the hand of the regime not the people protector. "

Robert F. Worth (New York Times) notes that Nawaf Fares is now Syria's ambassador to Iraq (Syria's first "since the early 1980s"). Now remember back in July when many in the press was telling that there was about to be a treaty between Iraq and the US (wrongly dubbed a "SOFA")? Still nothing. Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports that Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation, declared today "it was wrong to assume an agreement was imminent. He said the two sides were deadlocked over two Iraqi demands: that U.S. troops be tried by Iraqi courts under some circumstances, and that all U.S. forces leave Iraq by the end of 2011." US soldiers tried in Iraqi courts? BBC reports that Sgt John Hatley, Sgt 1st Class Joseph Mayo and Sgt Michael Lehy Jr. are charged with murdering four Iraqis ("blindfolded, shot and dumped in a canal in April 2007"). They will be tried in a US military hearing. CBC notes, "The killings are alleged to have been retribution for casualties suffered by U.S. forces." CBC also states that four more are being held and are under investigation (with two of the four US soldiers having been charged). AP, however, says the four additional soldiers "have already been charged with conspiracy in the case." Meanwhile, AP reports that Staff Sgt. Darris J. Dawson and Sgt. Wesley R. Durbin's deaths on Sunday in Iraq are under investigation and a US soldier "has been taken into custody" due to the deaths. Troy Moon (Pensacola News Journal) reports that Dawson was "a father of four" and a graduate of Escambia High and quotes his stepmother Maxine Mathis stating, "It's bad enough he had to fear the enemy. But he had to fear a fellow soldier. This is senseless. Not only did (the alleged shooter) take our son's life, he took another man's life as well. It's just horrible. I want people to know what happened.'' Chris Vaughn (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) reports that Durbin was from Dallas and "an honor student and 2001 gradute of Dallas Luterhan School. He volunteered in the Civil Air Patrol in high school, then joined the Marines. After he left the Marine Corps, he joined the Army two years ago."

Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian of London) reports that Amnesty International is calling attention to the flooding of arms into Iraq: "There is no clear accountable audit trail for some 360,000 small arms supplied to the Iraqi security forces, many by the US and UK, it says. Subcontracting makes the arms trade even less transparent. Among examples cited by Amnesty are the supply of 63,800 Kalashnikov assault rifles from Bosnia to Iraq and the dispatch via the UK of thousands of Italian Beretta pistols, many of which ended up in the hands of al-Qaida insurgents in Iraq." Meanwhile IRIN reports over 100 cases of cholera are now confirmed in Iraq.

Today's violence . . .


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded three people, another Baghdad roadside bombing wounded six people, a third Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left two more people wounded, two Baghdad car bombings claimed 8 lives with twenty-five people wounded, a Baghdad mortar attack wounded seven people, a Baiji car bombing that left four people wounded, a Mosul roadside bombing left two police officers wounded, a Tal Afar roadside bombing that left three Iraqi soldiers injured and (dropping back to Tuesday for all bombings that follow) 3 Mosul roadside bombing that wounded seven and a Ramadi car bombing that claimed the life of Abu Seif ("Awakening" Council leader).


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad shooting that claimed 2 lives and left two people wounded, Shamil Yunis (dept governor of Mosul) was assassinated in Mosul, an attack on a bus outside of Kirkuk claimed 3 lives and left four people wounded.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad.

Since Sunday, when two US service members were announced dead there have been at least two more deaths registering as of this morning. M-NF, tasked with announcing deaths, did not announce them. The Defense Department's job is to announce names after the families have been informed. 4159 was this morning's total of US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. That total has risen during the day. This afternoon, the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldier died of a non-battle related cause Sept. 17." And they announced: "A Multi-National Corps -- Iraq Soldier died of a non-battle related causes Sept. 17." 4161 is the current total of US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.

Quote of the day
goes to Riverdaughter (The Confluence), "And remember, 'We are the ones no one expected'." Which takes us into the US presidential race. Matt Lira ( advises, "Today the McCain-Palin campaign announced the endorsement of Lynn Forester de Rothschild, a prominent Hillary Clinton supporter and member of the Democratic National Committee's Platform Committee." de Rothschild is quoted stating, "In an election as important as this, we must choose the candidate who has a proven record of bipartisanship and reforming government, and that's John McCain," Rothschild said. "We can't afford a president who lacks experience and judgment and has never crossed party lines to work for meaningful reform. Amid tough economic times and foreign policy concerns, we need someone who is ready to lead. Although I am a Democrat, I recognize that it's more important to put country ahead of party and that's why I support John McCain." Meanwhile Howard Kurtz (Washington Post) notes a new study conducted by the Wisconsin Advertising Project which finds the Obama campaign "aired more negative advertising last week than did" the McCain camapign and quotes the study's director, Ken Goldstein, stating, "It suggests that the Sarah Palin pick and the newfound aggressiveness by McCain got into Obama's head a little bit. He was under great pressure to show some spine, be aggressive, fire back." Peter Overby (NPR's Morning Edition) reports on Barack and McCain's remarks about Wall Street and Overby notes, "But just as Wall Street is known as the financial capital of the country, it's also known -- by presidential hopefuls -- as the single best place to go for campaign cash.
Obama has raised $10 million from the men and women of Wall Street. McCain's take is somewhat less: about $7 million." Governor Sarah Palin is McCain's running mate and the object of non-stop sexism.
Marie Cocco (Washington Post Writers Group) addresses some of it in her latest column:

This has a lot to do with a graphic image of Palin I just saw in which she is dressed in a black bustier, adorned with long, black gloves and wielding a whip. The image appeared in the Internet magazine Salon to illustrate a column titled: "The dominatrix," by Gary Kamiya. Kamiya calls Palin a "pinup queen," and says she not only tantalized the Republican National Convention with political red meat, but that her "babalicious" presence hypercharged the place with sexual energy, and naughty energy at that. "You could practically feel the crowd getting a collective woody as Palin bent Obama and the Democrats over, shoved a leather gag in their mouths and flogged them as un-American wimps, appeasers and losers."That's some sexual mother lode. Dare I point out that I have never -- ever -- in three decades of covering politics seen a male politician's style, even one with an earthy demeanor, described this way?Salon editor Joan Walsh says she agrees the "dominatrix" piece had a "provocative cover,'' and that her columnists enjoy great freedom. "One day Gary (Kamiya) called Palin a dominatrix, the next day Camille Paglia called her a feminist." The magazine exists, Walsh says, to "push the envelope."No sooner did Walsh give me this explanation than another Salon contributor, Cintra Wilson, pushed that envelope again. Wilson described Palin as follows: an "f---able ... Christian Stepford wife in a 'sexy librarian' costume" who is, for ideological Republicans, a "hardcore pornographic centerfold spread." That is, when Palin is not coming across as one of those "cutthroat Texas cheerleader stage moms."What is it about a woman candidate that sends the media into weird Freudian frenzies?

Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate.
Team Nader notes:

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