Jim filling in for Rebecca with a light post

Jim guest posting for Rebecca tonight. It's the first Halloween for Rebecca & Flyboy's baby. She said I could note the costume was "a kitty cat." She plans to blog some about that tomorrow night. Ava, C.I. and I are on the road so we've got a bit more free time than if we were at home. Since most people are taking part in the holiday, we offered to fill in for anyone who needed it.

Rebecca loved the idea and asked me to explain I'm not mad at her.

I am.

Joking. Rebecca and I are a lot alike. We both say what we think. Yesterday, she wrote about how I was asking everyone to hold off on a topic (true) and how she's not sure she agrees with it (which she'd already told me). I wasn't mad in the least but that was one of the two big topics in the e-mails she read today: "Is Jim mad at you?" Or "Are you mad at Jim?" Or "Will Jim be mad at you?"


She's probably right and I surely see her point.

Any other week, because I'm on the fence, I'd say, "Fine. Go for it." But the last two writing sessions for The Third Estate Sunday Review have been hell. I promised Dona I'd try to think of ways to ensure it goes more smoothly this weekend because there's no way we can continue like this. Last Sunday, it was a little after 5:00 pm Sunday when we got done. We had to let most people go much earlier (which was cool) because we were stuck on a story.

We really can't keep doing that and the week before was almost as bad.

Don't get me wrong, we have a blast. But it's just too much to ask everyone to do. And, like Mike pointed out, C.I. had been up since 5:00 a.m. Saturday (or before) on the East Coast, then C.I., Ava and Kat fly back home (with Ava and C.I. writing their pieces for Francisco, Maria and Miguel's newsletter) and that's really too much to ask.

Rebecca doesn't take orders from me. She'll do what she want (and that's true of everyone) but I did ask that everybody try holding off on commenting on one topic because I figured it was a natural for our site. As she pointed out, C.I. tackled it on Monday and it could look like (which I hadn't thought about) that the rest of us were just letting C.I. dangle in the wind. That's a good point. And she's made many more on the phone with me.

My concern is just trying to get us finished with an edition quickly. Ava and C.I. were pitching an idea to Ty yesterday. I've asked everyone to try to do that this week. It's a problem because when we go in with a lot of things before Thursday, most of them fall away because other things pop up by Sunday. But this week, I really don't care. I just want everyone to get some sleep. (Dona wants that too.) So they're tossing an idea around for a very brief feature and I know Jess and Dona are tossing ideas with Kat. Rebecca and I are on the phone all the time and we're tossing ideas as well. The only ones who don't need to are Wally and Cedric because they've had an idea we've needed to do for about three weeks now.

Is it fun? Ask Rebecca. When she was pregnant, I was especially concerned that she not put herself out and she made it clear that she wanted to continue working on the weekends and, if it became a problem, she'd just excuse herself. Now that she's given birth, there are times when she'll excuse herself to go breast feed or something like that.

The site is done by Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava, C.I. and myself. Everyone else is just being kind with their time and we always try to make clear that they can take a break, they can skip a weekend, they can do whatever. We love their input and it makes everything we have a lot better but we try to make sure that they know they don't have to help out every weekend. As it turns out, only two people have worked on every edition, Ava and C.I. The rest of us have all taken time off when we needed it.

And everyone's comfortable saying "no" these days. Ava and C.I. have already told me they won't know until Saturday what TV show they'll be reviewing. Ava (with Elaine's help) has gotten very clear about telling me, "I'm tired, back off."

Rebecca and I have never had that problem because we have the same style. So never wonder, "Are they mad at each other?" If we were, you wouldn't have to wonder. You'd say, "Ooops, they are mad."

Okay, she said keep it short and keep it light so I'll wrap up on that.

Wait. Ava and C.I. just hollered. We're going to include something on our guest posts tonight. Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, has Bell's Palsy which for most is a temporary affliction (and Goodman appears to be near the end of it). This is from her "For Whom the Bell’s Palsy Tolls:"

Bell's palsy. It hit suddenly a month ago. I had just stepped off a plane in New York, and my friend noticed the telltale sagging lip. It felt like Novocain. I raced to the emergency room. The doctors prescribed a weeklong course of steroids and antivirals. The following day it got worse. I had to make a decision: Do I host "Democracy Now!," our daily news broadcast, on Monday? I could speak perfectly well, and I'm tired of seeing women (and men) on TV who look like they just stepped off the set of "Dynasty." Maybe if they see a person they trust to deliver the news, still there, but just looking a little lopsided, it might change their view of friends and family-or strangers, for that matter-who are struggling with some health issue.
Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia anyone can edit, stated that I had suffered a stroke. So on Tuesday I decided to tell viewers and listeners that I was suffering from a temporary bout of Bell's palsy, that it wasn't painful and that "the doctors tell me I will be back to my usual self in the next few weeks. In the meantime, it just makes it a little harder to smile. But so does the world."
Bell's palsy affects 50,000 people in the U.S. every year. It is an inflammation of the seventh cranial nerve that connects to the eye, nose and ear. The inflammation causes temporary paralysis of the nerve. For some, the eye can't close, so they have to tape it shut at night, and some can't speak. George Clooney had it. Ralph Nader came down with it in the midst of a speaking tour. He was in Boston debating someone when his eye started to water and his mouth sagged. It didn’t stop him. He continued his tour, just beginning each talk by saying, "At least you can’t accuse me of speaking out of both sides of my mouth."
I was just in Santa Fe, N.M., interviewing Tim Flannery, voted 2007 Australian of the Year for his remarkable work as an explorer, paleontologist, zoologist and climate-change scientist. Before we went on the stage, I apologized for my crooked smile. He said he knew the feeling, having had shingles, a more painful viral condition that affects one side of the face. I was beginning to feel less and less alone.
The next day we broadcast from the New Mexico state Legislature. The cameraman told me that Ambassador Joe Wilson, husband of Valerie Plame, had just been in. He had been doing an interview with his wife from a remote studio with Larry King. The cameraman told Wilson that I had Bell's palsy. He said that he, too, had suffered a bout of it. I caught up with Wilson after our morning broadcast. He described what happened to him. It was 10 years ago. He had just gotten off Air Force One in Africa with President Clinton. He splashed some water on his face, looked in the mirror and saw the telltale face sag, unblinking eye and mouth droop; he thought he had had a stroke. Walter Reed Army Medical Center was called, and Wilson was diagnosed with Bell's palsy within a few minutes. Clinton sat him down and said that he had known a number of people who had had Bell's, and that he should just carry on. It would go away. Wilson flew off to Luanda and gave a speech on the tarmac. Later that day, he passed a television set and hardly recognized himself, with his mouth askew. He thought he looked like the actor Edward G. Robinson, a tough-talking gangster speaking out of the side of his mouth.

We wrote about that at The Third Estate Sunday Review. Elaine, Ava and C.I. were the ones who convinced us we had to. (See "Truest statement of the week" and "Goodman's announcement"). There was concern that by writing it we might be talking about something that didn't need to be talked about. I believe it was Ava who pointed out the scene in Coming Home where Jane Fonda's character is confronting the military wives on the base about the base newsletter ignoring the wounded returning to the US. But all three were making points about how Goodman had noted it and it would be a rejection to ignore it. It took guts to go public and keep on working and there are many people -- with off camera lives -- who do. Ignoring something like this would be ignoring anyone's condition that strayed from the very narrow labeled range of "normal." Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, October 31, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the price of oil hits a new record high, Tim Russert gets his ya-yas at the public's expense, Blackwater continues to raise eyebrows and more.

Starting with war resisters. Over the weekend,
Paul St. Armand's Parallels won the Canadian Reflections Award at the enRoute Student Film Festival in Toronto. Among those serving as judges for the festival were film producer Denise Robert, actor-writer-director Patrick Huard, director-animator Torill Kove, director Atom Egoyan, producer Robert Lantos, actor-producer Donald Sutherland and film critic (Toronto Star) Geoff Pevere. Halifax' The Daily News explains, "Parallels is a double portrait of U.S. amry deserters from the Vietnam and Iraq wars. The film won Best Documentary at the 2007 BC Student Film Festival, was a Golden Sheaf nominee at the Yorkton Short Film & Video Festival, and is a current nominee at Kevin Spacey's Triggerstreet Online Film Festival." The documentary short explores the lives of James D. Jones and Joshua Key. Originally, Paul St. Armand thought he was making a documentary that would look at Vietnam war resisters in Canada three decades later. James D. Jones was one of the war resisters from that era he spoke with. Then the War Resisters Support Campaign hooked him up with Iraq War resister Joshua Key and St. Armand noted similarities in the two resisters stories. Key's story is also among those told in Michaelle Mason's documentary Breaking Ranks (where he states, "As we got down the Euphrates River and we took a shartp right turn, all we seen was heads and bodies. And American troops in the middle of them saying 'we lost it'.") and in the book he wrote with Lawrence Hill, The Deserter's Tale. From Key's book, page 176:

By our sins of willful neglect, we were about to have a child's blood on our hands. I knew it was wrong then, and now I know exactly what the Geneva Conventions say about the protection of women and children in war.
"Women shall be the object of special respect and shall be protected in particular against rape, forced prostitution, and any other form of indecent assault."
I knew how things were going to begin for that thirteen-year-old Iraqi girl, that day, but there was no telling how they would end. We had every means at our disposal to protect that girl. I say this because, in Iraq, sergeants and officers in my company generally behaved however they wanted in the presence of Iraqi civilians, employees, police officers, and border officials. In my opinion, it wouldn't have mattered in the slightest to my superiors what Iraqis throught of our actions. If one of our officers or sergeants had chosen to intervene and protect the girl, no Iraqi working at the border would have been in a position to stop him. We were the ones with the ultimate authority at the border. Indeed, one of our roles at al-Qa'im was to teach the Iraqi border officials and police officers how to inspect a car, and to tell them what we would allow Iraqis to take out of their country and what we prohibited as export items. We were the occupiers and we controlled the border, but when it came to the fate of the thirteen-year-old girl who was about to be raped, we did nothing.

Steve Woodhead (The Brock Press) reports on war resister Michael Espinal recent speaking event at Brock University at St. Catharines, Ontario. Espinal explains of one thing explains about his time in Iraq, "We were told to walk right past injured civilians, even children who were lying bleeding on the ground. I've seen soldiers take up to $20,000 U.S. from homes during house raids . . . Soldiers would go around in civilian cars we picked up at border checkpoints." Like many war resisters, Espinal had to go online to find information about war resistance.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key,
Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.

National Lawyers Guild's convention begins shortly: The Military Law Task Force and the Center on Conscience & War are sponsoring a Continuing Legal Education seminar -- Representing Conscientious Objectors in Habeas Corpus Proceedings -- as part of the National Lawyers Guild National Convention in Washington, D.C. The half-day seminar will be held on Thursday, November 1st, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the convention site, the Holiday Inn on the Hill in D.C. This is a must-attend seminar, with excelent speakers and a wealth of information. The seminar will be moderated by the Military Law Task Force's co-chair Kathleen Gilberd and scheduled speakers are NYC Bar Association's Committee on Military Affairs and Justice's Deborah Karpatkin, the Center on Conscience & War's J.E. McNeil, the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee's Peter Goldberger, Louis Font who has represented Camilo Mejia, Dr. Mary Hanna and others, and the Central Committee for Conscientious Objector's James Feldman. The fee is $60 for attorneys; $25 for non-profit attorneys, students and legal workers; and you can also enquire about scholarships or reduced fees. The convention itself will run from October 31st through November 4th and it's full circle on the 70th anniversary of NLG since they "began in Washington, D.C." where "the founding convention took place in the District at the height of the New Deal in 1937, Activist, progressive lawyers, tired of butting heads with the reactionary white male lawyers then comprising the American Bar Association, formed the nucleus of the Guild."

Turning to the topic of the mercenary company Blackwater, an
editorial from the Los Angeles Times notes today: "Congress should also begin investigating growing evidence of an overly cozy relationship between the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and Blackwater. It appears that the bureau hired the contractors, supervised their activities, allowed them to use deadly force, began to investigate the long-simmering allegations of excessive use of force only after the outcry over the September shootings, and then promised some contractors immunity without asking permission from the Justice Department. This behavior is more disturbing given reports that Blackwater has hired former State Department officials at high salaries, raising questions about whether the 'revolving door' presented a conflict of interest for investigators. Certainly Blackwater seems to have unwarranted influence in Washington, as evidenced by the letter it procured from the State Department ordering it not to disclose information to Waxman's committee. Who's in charge here, the U.S. government or Blackwater?" As questions continue to rise, John M. Broder and David Johnston (New York Times) inform that the Defense Department and not the State Department will now be in charge of oversight and quote US House Rep Jan Schakowsky stating, "It feels like they're [the State Department] protecting Blackwater." However, Noah Schatman (Wired) reports that the Department of Defense will not provide oversight because "The US Regional Cooperation Offices -- also called 'Reconstruction Operations Centers' -- are themselves outsourced, through a recently renewed $475 million contract to the British firm Aegis. And Aegis is run by the infamous old-school gun-for-hire, Tim Spicer." Which calls into question the noted by Peter Grier (Christian Science Monitor), made by Geoff Morrell -- Pentagon flack, that "the military, for its part, would now excercise some control over contractor training" -- a bit hard for the Pentagon to do if oversight has already been contracted out. Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) notes the limited-immunity the State Department offered Blackwater over the September 16th slaughter of Iraqi civilians in Baghdad and observes, "New details about the 'protections' given Blackwater contractors allegedly involved in the shootings sparked outrage from congressional Democrats yesterday, along with a flood of letters to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from committee chairmen demanding more information." Tim Harper (Toronto Star) observes of the immunity offered (with no input from anyone outside the State Department), "But legal experts said the state department move makes an already difficult prosecution even more difficult and keeps those who allegedly did the shooting in a legal zone which authorities may not be able to penetrate. Democrats accused the Bush administration of shielding potential killers and the chair of the powerful oversight committee gave U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice until Friday at noon to answer questions about the decision of her investigators." Of course, Rice isn't supposed to be in the US then. She's supposed to be in Turkey for a scheduled conference. Facing reporters in yesterday's State Dept briefing, Sean McCormack repeatedly fell back on a claim that he couldn't speak, "First of all, we have to draw a box around the specific events of September 16th and anything involved with that particular case." Other comments on the news emerging this week regarding the State Department and Blackwater included, "This is an area that I can't venture into."; "Again, I can't speak to the specifics of the September 16th case."; "In general, you have exhausted my legal knowledge concerning this case."; and "I'm just not going to have anything to say about the September 16th case." Even on something as general as the process of the incident reports that are supposed to be required whenever a contractor under the State Department fires a weapon in Iraq, McCormack stonewalled with comments such as "Let me just see if there's a standard procedure that I can talk about" and "I'll talk to the lawyers and see what we can do." Discussing the procedures on incident reports, on who sees them and the process itself does not require speaking to an attorney. Furthermore, in a democracy (open government), the process is not a secret. When Helen Thomas pressed White House flack Dana Perino on the immunity issue yesterday, Perino refused to expand on more than "Helen, as I said, it's a matter that's under review" and refused to state whether the Bully Boy had been briefed on the immunity deal the State Department offered.

As the tensions and fallout from the September 16th slaughter continues in Iraq, the puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki feels pressure to do something (his earlier public statements regarding Blackwater having since been clamped down on) so he has proposed a measure that would overturn Paul Bremer's Order 17 which granted immunity (from the Iraqi government) to contractors operating in Iraq.
Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reports the proposed bill "was written by" al-Maliki's legal adviser. Asked about that in the briefing yesterday, Sean McCormack was again evasive stating "Well, it's their law as I understand it -- unless I'm wrong here and that has been known to happen. . . . But as I understand it, they have the ability to changer their laws. Now, let's take a look at exactly what has been proposed and has yet to be debated in their legislature. But once we have a look at it and have a chance to analyze it, perhaps we'll have more to say about it." Left unstated is exactly why the State Department or the US should have anything to say about the allegedly independent nation-state Iraq. Meanwhile Christian Berthelsen and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) report that Iraqi eye witnesses to the slaughter say the FBI agents investigating "appear focused on whether anyone fired first on the American convoy and have been aggressively gathering ballistic evidence" and citing an unnamed "U.S. source" report that the team of investigators left Iraq Sunday.

Staying on the topic of crime, the US military has found a number of anthropologists who will betray their field. Earlier this month, the
BBC noted, "The Pentagon is pulling out all the stops in Iraq and Afghanistan" to recruit wayward academics to assist their Human Terrain System; however, "very frew anthropologists in the US are willing to wear a uniform and receive the mandatory weapons training." The article also notes the Network of Concerned Anthropologists an organization created to preven the betryal of the social science and the unethical use of the field to harm or destroy a people. One founding member of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists is David Price. In a well researched and documented article entitled "Pilfered Scholarship Devastates General Petraeus's Counterinsurgency Manual" (CounterPunch), Price walks readers through how even on something as basic as a monogram, those involved are applying no academic standards and he notes that Montgomery McFate appears to believe that merely stumbling across a passage written by another academic means she can claim it as her own -- word for word -- without credit or attribution. That's theft, plagiarism and shoddy scholarship. Monty is as she was -- forever and ever. Price also examines the press-love for Monty and writes, "In a recent exchange with Dr. McFate, Col. John Agoglia and Lt. Col. Edward Villacres on the Diane Rehm Show, I pressed McFate for an explanation of how voluntary ethical informed consent was produced in environments dominated by weapons. In response, McFate assured me that was not a problem because 'indigenous local people out in rural Afghanistan are smart, and they can draw a distinction between a lethal unit of the U.S. military and a non-lethal unit'." The Diane Rehm Show referred to was broadcast October 10th. In that broadcast, though Monty claimed the local population was able to discern, the New York Times' David Rohde was asked how clear the lines were by USA Today's Susan Page (filling in for Rehm) -- "does it seem transparent for them" when they meet with "Tracy":

David Rohde: Um, she was transparent with them. I don't think she gave her full name, I think she does identify herself as an anthropologist. I saw her briefly, but I don't know what she does at all times. She personally, um, actually chose to carry a weapon for security that's not a requirement for members of the team, I've been told. And she wore a military uniform which would make her appear to be a soldier, um, to Afghans that she wasn't actually speaking with.

Susan Page: And so you think Aghans knew that she wasn't a soldier even though she was wearing a military uniform and carrying a weapon? Or do you think that they just assumed that she probably was?

David Rohde: I would think that they assumed that she was.

That's the reality and, strangely, when Rohde was done speaking, Monty had nothing to add even though every false claim she'd offered in the roundtable had just been demolished. Price notes "a recent New York Times op-ed by Chicago anthropologist Richard Shweder indicates a stance of inaction from which the travesties of Human Terrain can be lightly critiqued while anthropologists are urged not to declare themselves as being 'counter-counterinsurgency'." that nonsense ran on A31 of last Saturday's Times and
mainly serves to update his November 2006 op-ed embarrassment where he gushed -- alleged anthropologist -- "The West is the best". The non-thinking person's anthropologist -- to anthropology what recipes on the back of a bag of Frito Lays are to fine cooking -- justified the program. While loose with the truth Monty and lost in stimulation Shweder attempt to put forth the lie that anthropologists are not being used for counter-insurgency measures (thereby assisting an occupying power by gathering information on a population -- information that will then be used against said population which is a clear betrayal of the field), Jacob Kipp, Lester Grau, Karl Prinslow and Don Smith, attempting to get the Happy Talk out on the program for the US military, wrote "The Human Terrain System: A CORDS for the 21st Century" for the September/October 2006 edition of Military Review and which not only makes clear that this is a counter-insurgency program but cites the CIvil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) as a model. CORDS was created under LBJ to "pacify" (destroy) the people studied. As Bryan Bender (Boston Globe) notes, CORDS "helped identify Vietnamese suspected as communists and Viet Cong collaborators; some were later assassinated by the United States." [Elaine addressed Price's article last night.] From Monty's crimes against humanity to some of today's reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing claimed 1 life and left 3 injured. Reuters notes a Tuz Khurmato roadside bombing that claimed the leife of 2 people (Iraqi soldier, police officer) and left another wounded.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a police officer shot dead in Kirkuk (two more wounded), while two children and a father were wounded in Kirkuk in a drive-by shooting and gunfire wounded a police officer in Babil. Reuters notes yet another attack on an official this time, in Kirkuk, on the chief judge of the court of appeals, Dhahir al-Bayati who was not killed but one guard was and another was left injured while, in Kirkuk, "an intelligence officer along with his wife and son" were injured in a drive-by shooting.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 corpses discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 8 corpses discoveredin Mosul. And CBS and AP note that Iraqi Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi announced today that 16 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.

Meanwhile tensions continue to escalate between Turkey and northern Iraq.
CNN reports that US planes are "flying over the Turkey-Iraq border to observe military movements" and quotes Pentagon flack Geoff Morrell stating, "We are assisting by supplying them, the Turks, with intelligence, lots of intelligence." Mark Bentley (Bloomberg News) informs that Condi Rice is supposed to "offer Turkey more intelligence on the location of of Kurdish fighters near the border with Iraq in order to avert a large-scale Turkish incursion" when she travels to Turkey for the conference. AP reminds that Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets with the Bully Boy in DC Monday. Suzan Fraser (AP) quotes Erdogan declaring that "it is now unavoidable that Turkey will have to go through a more intensive military process." AFP reports the Turkish military is stating it has killed 15 members of the PKK today and cites "press reports" that "possible sanctions against Iraq include restricting trade through the Habur border gate and uctting off electricity supplies to northern Iraq." While Turkey considers that, CBS and AP report, "Iraq will set up more checkpoints along its northern frontier to keep out supplies for Kurdish rebels". Meanwhile Steve Hargreaves (CNNMoney) reports that while the tensions and violence continues the price of oil per barrel hit a new record today: $94.53 per barrel.

Turning to US politics,
Perry Bacon Jr. (Washington Post) notes that Ralph Nader has declared he will make a decision about the 2008 race at the end of this year and quotes Nader stating of the two major parties (Democratic and Republican), "They are converging more and more. They are clearly more similar than they were 30 or 40 years ago." Nader's 2004 run was the subject of a discussion on Democracy Now! today between Amy Goodman and Carl Mayer who has filed a lawsuit against the Democratic Party:

AMY GOODMAN: Why are you suing?

CARL MAYER: To defend democracy. That's the title of the show -- excuse me, is Democracy Now! And this was the most massive anti-democratic campaign to eliminate a third-party candidate from the ballot in -- probably in recent American history. It is -- not content with having all these laws and statutes on the book that make it difficult for third-party and independent candidates to run, the Democratic Party and their allies in over fifty-three law firms, with over ninety lawyers, were engaged in filing litigation in eighteen states. They were to remove Ralph Nader from the ballot. It was an organized, abusive litigation process. The core of the lawsuit is that these lawyers, led by Toby Moffett and Elizabeth Holtzman, and something called the Ballot Project, which was a 527 organization, systematically went around the country and filed lawsuit after lawsuit, twenty-four in all, plus five FEC complaints, to try to completely remove the Nader campaign from the ballot and to, in effect, bankrupt the campaign, which they succeeded in doing. Not content with that, one of the defendants, Reed Smith, which is a large corporate law firm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, they are now going after Ralph Nader's personal bank account to make him pay some of the cost of this litigation.
And, understand, despite being outspent by the Democratic Party and its affiliated lawyers, the vast majority of these lawsuits were won by the Nader campaign, which was a largely volunteer effort. And these lawsuits were won across the country, despite this organized effort of intimidation and harassment. It's basically abusive process and malicious prosecution. Those are common law torts. And it was very clear from the beginning that the Democratic Party was using the legal system for an improper purpose. In fact, Toby Moffett, who's a former congressman from Connecticut, said directly to The Guardian of London in an interview in December of 2004, this wasn't about the law. "I'd be less than honest if I said" this was not about the law; this was about getting Ralph Nader off the ballot. And that's what this effort was about. And it's a shameful anti-democratic process by a party that claims to be a democratic party. And on top of that, the Democratic Party, or its allies, filed five FEC complaints against the campaign, alleging improper --

AMY GOODMAN: Federal Election Commission.

CARL MAYER: The Federal Election Commission -- alleging improper funding, improper finances, etc. They were all dismissed by the FEC.
Now, let me tell you how bad it got. There was an organized effort of harassment of petitioners who went around trying to collect signatures for the Nader campaign in Ohio, in Oregon and in Pennsylvania. In Ohio, for example, lawyers were hired to call up petitioners and tell them that if they didn't verify the signatures on the petition, they would be guilty of a felony. They were called at home by -- and they were, in many cases, visited by private investigators and told -- this is voter intimidation of the worst order. In the state of Oregon, for example, there was a nominating convention, and you need a thousand signatures at the convention. We have emails from Democratic Party operatives stating, we want our people to go to this convention and then refuse to sign the petition at the convention so Nader will not get enough signatures at the convention to get on the ballot. And they accomplished their goal in Oregon. After the convention, there's an alternative way of getting on the ballot, which is to collect signatures, and the Nader campaign went about doing that, and during the course of that there was further harassment and intimidation of petitioners by law firms, private investigators, calling up and threatening petitioners that they would be called before a court if they did not certify all the petitions.

For the record,
Ralph Nader is against the illegal war and calling for an immediate end to it unlike the three Democratic front runners. Last night the and others participated in a forum billed as a 'debate' but more of an embarassment.

Hillary Clinton demonstrated that even when attacked by two men (Barack Obama and John Edwards), a woman is up for the job. Whether she would be the president Americans want or not is another question. Like Obama and Edwards, Clinton refuses to pledge to end the illegal war if elected president (in 2008) by 2013.

Apparently having exhausted the alleged "rock star" charm and having no real ideas to offer voters,
Marz Barbabak and Peter Nicholas (Los Angeles Times) report, Barack now claims the really issue is that Clinton is reportedly "divisive" stating, "Part of the reason that Republicans, I think are, obsessed with you, Hillary, is because that's a fight they're very comfortable having." Considering that many Americans look back favorably on the 90s and that Bill Clinton won two presidential elections, Obama's attempted smear was ineffective. By contrast, John Edwards wanted to talk about his beliefs, CNN notes, for instance: "You know, I believe in Santa Claus. I believe in the tooth fairy." And candidates wonder why they aren't taken seriously? As Bill Richardson stated of the tag-team attacks on Clinton (note, neither man was up to the attacks before they could tag-team), "I think that Senators Obama and Edwards should concentrate on the issues and not on attacking Senator Clinton."

But where were the issues? Iraq was rendered nearly as invisible as
Mike Gravel who was not allowed to take part in the forum. Moderator Tim Russert attempted to further narrow the field by ridiculing Dennis Kucinich -- possibly because Kucinich actually has a plan to end the illegal war? "Now, did you see a UFO?" Many Americans have seen UFOs. UFOs are not flying saucers. Russert bungled his own big moment by failing to grasp that, as Kucinch pointed out, a UFO is "unidentified." Millions of Americans call in UFOs every year -- and will continue to. Apparently, if Americans saw strange planes flying along the eastern coast, Russert would prefer they not alert authorities? UFOs is what Russert offered. No substantial exchange on issues, just ha-ha UFOs. All Things Media Big and Small continue to ignore the very real issues at stake in the 2008 election. Last night may be the most extreme televised examples as one candidate felt the need to cite the tooth fairy while avoiding the realities most Americans are living with and a moderator thought he could better serve the public by offering up ha-has.