First off, huge thank you to C.I. Huge! Mike wrote about his laptop being hacked for Hilda's Mix and at least one of the culprits, not a community member, e-mailed to ask, "Has anyone ever tried to hack your computer?" You know what they say about the barking dog.
So anyway, if you have a community site or do a community newsletter, you got a laptop from C.I. Ruth called me this afternoon at work and asked me, "Marcia, did you get a laptop?" I didn't know what she was talking about. I said, "No, Ruth, I still have the same computer." She said she'd gotten one delivered and hadn't ordered it. She'd checked with her sons and no one had surprised her. I figured Ruth had an admirer in the community. I mentioned it while getting some coffee and one of my co-workers went running to the boss saying, "I think Marcia's got a laptop! She needs to leave early!" My boss was all for it but I really didn't think I had a laptop. Then I'm headed home and Ruth calls on my cell (I used the bluetooth, don't panic) and she hadn't been able to get ahold of C.I. but had talked to Jim who said, "Yeah, but C.I. doesn't want anyone to make a big thing of it. Everyone should have a new laptop today. " And that C.I. got them for Elaine and Rebecca and Mike. Mike just got a new one. Elaine and Rebecca have more than enough money to buy their own. But C.I. got it for everyone so no one would feel left out.
I get home and the box is on my porch by the door. I immediately thought of Cedric because he lives in a complex but turns out C.I. had it delivered to Cedric's complex manager so it wouldn't be just out in the hall. I love it.
But all I've done is turn it on. Everything's pre-loaded and Ruth and Maria and Krista have all called to say they're just whizzing along. But I took it out of the box and spent forever looking at it. I like it, I love it. It's sleek and shiny. But I think I'm a little scared by it because I finally turned it on and then ended up booting up my regular computer and that's what I'm blogging on tonight. I'll play with it tomorrow.
I was that way at Christmas, my parents will tell you. If there was a big item, I would study it and wouldn't really play with it till the next day. I don't know why that is, that's just how I am.
It was totally unneeded on my part but it was so sweet of C.I. and I'll say thank you here (even though I know Jim told Ruth that C.I. really didn't even want us to know where they came from). Take it up with Jim. My parents raised me to always say thank you. I wish I'd gone over to Trina's tonight because I'd love to have some pointers on how to use it. And, honestly, watch others use them because even if I'd gone over, I wouldn't have been blogging on it.
My mother says I appreciate things, my father says I am always afraid I'm going to break it. I suppose there's truth in both of their view points.
But I really am excited about it. I'm at my kitchen table and I keep craning my head to look over at it on the coffee table in the living room.
And that was really just too sweet of C.I.
I'm sitting here realizing how many links I'm going to have to do on the above and instead thinking, "Use Kat's trick."
The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
and Marcia SICKOFITRDLZ.
All got new laptops (C.I. got one for herself as well) as did Hilda, Maria, Miguel, Francisco, Gina, Krista, Three Cool Old Guys, Polly and Beth. (I don't know if UK Computer Gurus got one. They use free-ware -- is that the right word? -- and build their own.)
There are three topics I want to talk about briefly. (Briefly because I've yacked on forever already.) So first, the treaty that's being called a SOFA. We were all talking about that at work because C.I.'s covered it heavy in the last two days. As my boss said, "That [Patrick] Cockburn is so busy spinning it for Barack and he hasn't even thought of how it ties Barack's hands." That is correct. And it shouldn't matter who you're supporting, you should be offended. Because the Constitution is being circumvented absolutely. But also because the next president -- whomever he or she is -- will have their hands tied by a treaty that the man who started the illegal war wants. Bully Boy's judgment passed "questionable" in the first year of his first term. But, as my cubicle neighbor put it, no one's paying a bit of attention to Iraq in the media. They're too busy going la-la-la election!
Second thing, C.I.'s column in the gina & krista round-robin. I was discussing that at work and I thought I'd mention it here because no one had put in that perspective. The media narrative is that McCain is behind and losing. And there are people accepting that as truth. It's not true. And, if you doubt it, you just need to remember that in Feb. the same media was telling you Barack had the nomination sewn up and Hillary needed to quit. But she kept winning those big states, didn't she?
The media was wrong about who would win what in the primaries and they're wrong now about McCain's campaign tanking. I thought about that when I saw Abdon M. Pallasch and John Byrne's "Sarah Palin slams Barack Obama over ACORN group" (Chicago Sun-Times):
"John [McCain] and I are calling on the Obama campaign to release communications it has had with this group, to do so immediately," Palin told 24,000 cheering fans at the Verizon Wireless Music Center.
The crowd was larger than showed up here for Jimmy Buffet or Dave Matthews this summer and 3,000 more than came out to hear Obama last week.
Palin demanded answers to "unanswered questions about his connections with ACORN."
24,000? 3,000 more people than showed up for Barack? (It's Indianapolis, by the way.) But no one likes John McCain and Sarah Palin! That's what the press keeps saying! Just like they said it about Hillary. Indiana? Hmmm. I seem to remember Wally and I setting up base there for weeks. And I seem to remember every day I'd get depressed if I paid attention to the news which kept saying Barack was going to win and it was over for Hillary. How did that turn out? Hint, every state Wally campaigned for Hillary in, she won. I'm not saying Wally's that powerful (though he was an amazing speaker) but I am saying by chance that it is how it worked out. All those weeks in Indiana and now they want to tell me (the press) that they know the state better? That they know Hillary supporters better? I don't think so. John McCain and Sarah Palin have a really good shot at taking Indiana.
The third thing, also from C.I.'s column, is national polls are meaningless. We do not have a popular vote, we have an electoral college system. We do not have a fair poll because many think if they say someone other than Barack they will be called a racist. I'm looking at these states that Barack's supposedly wow-ing in and if they're states I campaigned in, I don't buy it. I was on the ground in those states. I spoke to those voters over and over. They were not going to vote for Barack. They didn't think he was qualified. Now that number may have slimmed down but there is no way, with all the things I was told by voters there, that all of Hillary's supporters are going for Barack. They were offended by the way their candidate was being treated and that was before the nomination she earned was stolen from her.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Friday, October 17, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, talk of the treaty between the White House and the puppet government continues, the UNHCR notes the Mosul crisis and more.
Starting with the treaty attempting to masquerade as a Status Of Forces Agreement. Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) reminds that what's being talked about now is a draft and explains the process for Iraq: "presented today to Iraq's political and national security council, which is made up of top government officials and the leaders of major political groups. If it survives challenges there and among other government ministers, it will move to the Council of Representatives, or parliament, where Maliki has pledged to put it to an up-or-down vote. Far less controversial matters have taken months to move through the Iraqi legislative provess, if they moved at all." BBC's Jim Muir reports: "Rejection of any agreement with the Americans is spearheaded by the group led by the militant Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr, who has strong grassroots support and also 30 seats in parliament. The Sadrists have called for a mass demonstration in Baghdad on Saturday to denounce the accord. At least one other big Shia faction is believed to have reservations about the agreement, and some Sunnis have also voiced dissent." Also noting the anticipated Shi'ite split is the Minneapolis Star Tribune which adds, "Although passage would require only a majority of the 275-member parliament, Al-Maliki will submit the draft only if he is convinced it will receive two-thirds support. To reach two-thirds, the draft would need the 30 votes from the Supreme Council." US Senator Carl Levin has issued the following statement:
"I have not yet seen the proposed Strategic Framework Agreement nor the Status of Forces Agreement between the United States and Iraq. The Administration committed to provide the text of these agreements to Congress before they are finalized, and I look forward to reviewing the text. I am skeptical of any agreement that would subject U.S. servicemen and women to the jurisdiction of Iraqi courts in the middle of a chaotic war and in the absence of a judicial system that has been proven to be fair and protective of the rights of individuals."
Germany's DPA reports an increase in opposition to the treaty today "among Iraqi religious leaders," quoted Imam Sadr Eddin al-Qabani telling a large gatherin in Najaf ("crowd of hundreds"), "The Shiite clergy is very worried about this security agreement with the USA" and noted the protest by Moqtada al-Sadr supporters scheduled for tomorrow in Baghdad has already resulted in many people beginning "to arrive in Baghdad to participate in the demonstration". Mohammad Akef Jamal (Gulf News) explores the treaty's meaning beyond the US and Iraq:
The US has extended its influence throughout the world with treaties and agreements, thereby securing its status as a major military and political power. And irrespective of the wording of the treaties or accords, the US has categorised its partners into two groups -- friends, ans subordinates.
Basically, treaties and accords are partnership contracts signed between two countries or more, to mutually safeguard the interests and security of all the parties to the agreement.
In most treaties, there is one powerful partner. There is also provisions for such agreements to include financial, scientific and cultural aid, which is usually availed by the weaker partner in the pact.
The security treaty between the US and Iraq has become a popular political topic for discussion in Iraq and the Middle East, as its signing is round the corner.
Dr. Mohammad Akef Jamal goes on to explore the region and notes Iran's opposition to the treaty. We'll come back to that later in the snapshot. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Congress is not in session. In fact, let's quote White House spokesperson Dana Perino on that: "So Congress isn't even going to be back here until about November 17th." That's the situation that worried many included Senator Jim Webb who introduced legislation September 12, 2008 about this very possibility. Speaking on the floor (link has text and video) of the US Senate, Webb explained:
We are at an odd situation in the business of government at the moment in that the international authority for the United States to be operating in Iraq will expire at the end of this year. The UN Mandate through the UN Security Council will expire at that time.
Since last November, the Administration has been negotiating what they call a "strategic framework agreement," that is intended to replace the international authority of the UN Mandate. There have been two questions that have come up with respect to what the Administration is doing. The first is the timeline. The Iraqi government negotiators have some serious questions that weren't anticipated before. But the larger question, really, is what entity of the federal government has the authority to enter the United States into a long-term relationship with another government?
These are serious issues. I would submit that the conditions under which we will continue to operate in Iraq -- military, diplomatically, economically, and even culturally -- are not the sole business of any adminsitration. We have questions about the legal justifications under domestic and international law for the United States to operate militarily and quasi-militarily, by the way, given the hundreds of thousands of independent contractors that now are performing essentially military functions in that country.
There are questions about the process by which the United States government decides upon and enters into long-term relationships with another nation -- any nation. And in that regard we have serious questions here about the very workings of our constitutional system of government.
This Administration has claimed repeatedly since last November that it has the right to negotiate and enter into an agreement that will set the future course of our relations with Iraq without the agreement or even the ratification of the United States Congress. The Administration claims that the justification for this authority is the 2002 congressional authorization for the use of force in Iraq and as a fallback position, the President's inherent authority from the perspective of this Administration as Commander in Chief.
Both of these justifications are patnetly wrong. The 2002 congressional authorization to use force in Iraq has nothing to do with negotiation with a government that replaced the Saddam Hussein government as to the future relations -- culturally, economically, diplomatically, and militarily -- between our two countries.
On the other hand, we are now faced with the reality that the United Nations mandate will expire at the end of this year and that expiration will terminate the authority under international law for the United States to be operating in Iraq at a time when we have hundreds of thousands of Americans on the ground in that country. And I and other colleagues have been warning of this serious disconnect for ten months.
Many of us were trying to say last November that the intention of this Administration was to proceed purely with an executive agreement, to drag this out until the Congress was going to go out of session, as we are about to do; then to present essentially a fait accompli in the sense that with the expiration of the international mandate from the UN at the end of the year, something would have to be done and that something would be an executive agreement that to this point the United States Congress has not even been allowed to examine. We haven't been able to see one word of this agreement.
We've tried to energize the congress about this. We've met with all the appropriate administration officials. There have been hearings. There have been assurances from the administration that they will "consult" at the appropriate time. But we haven't seen anything. So we're faced with a situation that is something of a constitutional coup d'etat by this Adminstration. At risk is a further expansion of the powers of the presidency, the results of this is to affirm in many minds that the president -- any president -- no longer needs approval of congress to enter into long-term relations with another country.
In effect, that is committing us to obligations that involve our national security, our economic well-being, our diplomatic posture around the world, without the direct involvement of the United States Congress. This is not what the Constitution intended. It's not in the best interests of the country.
This amendment which I introduce today is designed to prevent this sort of an imbalance from occuring at the same time that it recognizes the realities of the timelines that are now involved with respect to the loss of international authority for our presence in Iraq at the end of this year.
This amendment is a sense of the congress. On the one hand, it states that it is a sense of the Congress that we work with the UN to extend the United Nations mandate for up to an additional year, giving us some addition international authority for being in Iraq, taking away the pressure of this timeline that could be used to justify an agreement that the Congress has not had the ability to examine. It also says that an extension of the United Nations mandate would end at such time as a strategic framework agreement and a status of forces agreement between the United States and Iraq are mutually agreed upon.
The amendment also makes the point that the strategic framework agreement now being negotiated between the United States and Iraq poses significant long-term national security implications for this country. We need a sense of the Congress. We need to be saying that. The Iraqis need to hear it. The amendment also puts the Congress on record, and the Administration on record, to the reality that the Bush Administration has fully agreed to consult with the Congress regarding all the details of the strategic framework agreement and the status of forces agreement and that there will be copies of the full text of these agreements provided to the chiarman and ranking minority members of the approriate committees in the house and senate prior to the entry into either of those agreements.
Importantly, it also says that any strategic framework agreement that has been mutally agreed upon by negotiators from our executive branch and the Iraqi government officials will cease to have effect unless it is approved by the Congress within 180 days of the entry into force of that agreement.
So, Mr. President, on the one hand this amendment recognizes the realities of where we are in terms of time lines. But, on the other, it protects the constituational process by which we are entering into long-term relationships with other countries, whether it is Iraq or Cameroon or Burudni, pick a country. We need to preserve the process. And it does it in a way that would not disrupt our operations in Iraq. I would urge my colleagues to join me on this amendment and protect the prerogatives under the Constitution of the United States Congress. With that, I yield the floor.
The White House continues its attempt to circumvent the Constitution while pretending that (a) it's not a treaty and (b) they share, they really, really share with Congress. Which explains Sean McCormack's song and dance before the press today at the US State Dept which included saying that Secretary of State Condi Rice is reaching out to various Senators and Reps and so is Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Asked what she told them, McCormak responded, "Talked about the text of the agreement and -- [asked if "agreement" was Rice's word] -- I don't know if she used that word. That's my word." He decided to stick with text and not agreement: "I'm sticking with text. I like the word text. And she also talked about the process, where we stand in the process. The process is ongoing. The Iraqis are considering the text. We are talking to the Iraqis. No news to announce in that regard. The process continues." By her phone calls, McCormack stated, we can surmise Rice supports the text. She wouldn't make phone calls if she didn't support it! Pressed on that, McCormack finally said, "Sure, sure. She supports the text, yes."
McCormack, in the same press confrence, made a badly worded statement when asked about Governor Sarah Palin, GOP vice presidential nominee, not being briefed when Senators Barack Obama, Joe Bide and John McCain have: "She -- if you hadn't noticed, she's a governor, not a sentor or congressman." I don't see how Palin could ever be a Congressman. She could be a Congress woman. She could be a member of Congress. She could be a US House Rep. But there was so much in that press conference. McCormack was asked didn't the Senate have approval and he responded, "Well, my understanding -- and you can check with the White House on this -- is this is not, it's not a treaty, so it doesn't require Congressional approval. And I think if you look back on the history of SOFA agreements, they are not traditionally things that have required Congressional approval. Of course, since this is a, you know, foreign policy, national security issues are issues of concern to all branches of government. And importantly, in this case, to the Legislative and the Executive Branches, there is a briefing process that's going on." After declaring that, he was asked six questions -- and answered none -- about complaints from members of Congress which led him to state, "I've -- you know, again, I've said what I'm going to say on the matter." At the White House, Dana Perino addressed the press and took questions and maintained that Congress is being briefed. Over and over, she maintained that. That's not advise and consent. As Karen DeYoung noted, "None of the actuald raft wording has yet been made public or unveiled to Congress".
From the Constitutional crisis to the Mosul crisis. Christians have been forced to flee from the Iraqi city as a result of attacks on them. Ed West (UK's Catholic Herald via Catholic Online) explains, "The refugees now face a bleak winter without any food or shelter in what aid workers are calling a 'desperate' situation." The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees issued the following this morning, attributed to spokesperson Ron Redmond:UNHCR is concerned about the displacement of Christian Iraqis from Mosul which started last week. We have received information from the Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MoDM) in Mosul that approximately 1,560 families (some 9,360 people) have been displaced so far, although UNHCR cannot confirm this number. The displaced population would represent about half of the Christians in the Mosul area. In recent days, we have sent at least 10 field assessment missions to areas surrounding Mosul, including Telesquf, Batnaya, Bartilla, Baashiqa, Akre, Shekhan. We've also had UNHCR teams in areas of Dahuk and Erbil, where Christians have sought refuge. According to initial reports, most Christian Iraqis decided to leave Mosul following direct as well as indirect threats and intimidation. One of those interviewed witnessed the killing of a Christian Iraqi on the street, while several of the displaced told us they had received printed threats at the university campus, in their homes and through text messages on their mobiles. Several others told our teams that they left when they heard news of 11 reported killings of Christians in Mosul. Others were warned by family members, friends and neighbours of potential threats and decided to leave before it was too late. Most of the families who fled are staying with extended family members, friends within the host community or in collective community buildings, including church facilities. There is an urgent need for food, clothes, non-food items (such as blankets, mattresses, and stoves), health facilities, hygiene kits, clean water and access to school. Over the past week, UNHCR and our partner, International Medical Corps (IMC), have distributed non-food items to a total of 802 families (about 4,800 people). We expect to have reached over 1,500 families by early next week, both new arrivals as well as those displaced people we have not been able to reach yet. Food and kerosene and additional assistance have been distributed by other UN agencies, non-governmental organisations and local authorities. A decision was also taken on Wednesday by the Ministers of Displacement and Migration and Defence to make available an immediate cash grant of 300,000 -- 500,000 Iraqi dinars ( $250-$425 ) to the displaced families, and another 1.5 million dinars ($1,250) to those who decide to return. For now, most of the displaced we spoke to do not envisage return to their homes as an immediate option, as they fear for their lives. A few told us that they will only return if and when their safety and security can be assured by the local authorities. UNHCR's led protection and assistant centres in Kirkuk and Mosul will continue to closely monitor the situation on the ground.
Gulf Daily News reports, "Lebanese political figure Amin Gemayel on Friday warned against attacks targeting Christians in Iraq, according to media reports. Gemayel was quoted by media as saying that a campaign targeting Iraqi Christians was 'part of a campaign to displace them, similar to displacing of Palestinians' by Israel'." Lebanon's Naharnet Newsdesk quotes Gemayel calling it "racial cleansing" and stating, "What sparks suspicion is that the campaign of racial cleansing targeting Iraqi Christians is underway as the security situation in Iraq is achieving progress. It is regretful that this campaign is underway while the new Iraqi regime and the American forces are watching." Fatih Abdulsalam (Azzaman) provides a unflinching look at the current state of Iraq which includes asking about the alleged 'strength' of Iraq: "Is it our political stability and security? The hundreds of thousands of Iraqi troops and police as well as 150,00 U.S. Marines cannot stop the persecution of Iraqi Christians in the city of Mosul." Also refusing to blink is Sami Moubayed (Asia Times):
Ever since the occupation of Iraq in 2003, Iraqi Christians have complained that they are being persecuted by Islamic militias. In some cases, many Christians were killed, churches attacked and women raped for walking outdoors without wearing headscarves. Over the past 10 days, 12 Iraqi Christians have been found dead in Iraq, angering the prime minister, who created a senior ministerial delegation to investigate the crimes. The group is composed of the ministers of defense, industry, planning and refugees. The depiction of Maliki's Iraq as a theocracy where freedom of religion is not tolerated is a terrible setback for Maliki, and is tarnishing his image in the United States and Europe. Ordinary Iraqis - mainly Christian - cannot but compare him with Saddam Hussein, who despite all the faults of his dictatorship, upheld religious diversity in Iraq and protected Iraqi Christians from fundamentalist threats.
Prior to the most recent outbreak of violence in Mosul, Iraqi Christians and other minorities were publicly demonstrating against the decision to strip Article 50 out of the legislation for provincial elections. Article 50 provided minority representation. Newsday reports, "The president of the semiautonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, Massoud Barzani, said the omission of a minority quota in a recently passed elections law was a 'big mistake.' Barzani also promised to help the federal government in its 'efforts to provide the equivalent protection for our Christian brothers.' Kurdistan borders Nineveh province, which includes Mosul. More than 1,400 families have fled Mosul to nearby villages and towns, the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration said." Add Barzani to the long list -- which includes puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki and Iraqi president Jalal Talabani -- of people calling the elimination of Article 50 out . . . after the bill was signed into law. Saad Abedine (CNN) reports 4 males have been arrested today under suspicion of taking part in the attacks on Iraqi Christians and quotes Maj Gen Mohammed al-Askari stating, "We know that they are part of a criminal gang that has been committing criminal acts in Mosul and we will do our best to arrest the rest."
Today the United Nations HCR noted a new report: "A UN refugee agency report released on Friday shows that the number of Iraqis seeking asylum in industrialized countries dropped in the first six months of this year, but they were still by far the top nationality seeking asylum in these destinations. According to the asylum trends report, the number of claims made by Iraqis (19,500) during the first six months of 2008, was higher than the combined number of asylum claims submitted by citizens of the Russian Federation (9,400) and China (8,700), the second and third most important source countries. Other important countries of origin of asylum seekers were Somalia (7,400), Pakistan and Afghanistan (6,300 each)." The report [PDF format warning] is entitled "Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries" and it examines the statistics on "asylum claims submitted in Europe and selected non-European countries during the first six months of 2008." The US and Canada rank first for asylum claims (not asylum granted, applications). France and the UK are third and fourth. The report notes that Iraq was the country of origin for most aslyum-seekers as it has been since 2006. For all of 2007, there were 45,000 asylum claims by Iraqis. For the first half of this year, there were 19,500 claims. The report is 25 pages and the bulk of it is tables.
While Iraq remains the number one refugee crisis in the world (and figures above were on external refugees making claims), tension remain between Iraq and it's northern neighbor Turkey. CNN reports that Turkish military planes again bombing northern Iraq today and notes that there are no known/confirmed deaths from the bombing. Reuters adds, "The general staff said on its website that the Turkish jets hit PKK bases in northern Iraq's Qandil mountains on Friday and that all planes had returned to their bases. Military sources, who declined to be named, earlier told Reuters that four PKK guerrillas were killed and several wounded in the bombardment of Qandil mountains."
In other reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and wounded four people and a Falluja bombing at the home of Sheikh Suleiman Ahmed al-Jumaili claimed the Sheikh's life as well as a man suspected of being the bomber. Reuters reports a Mosul roadside bombing that claimed 1 life and left one person injured, 2 more Mosul roadside bombing that resulted in 1 Iraqi soldier losing his life, four more wounded, two police officers and three civilians being injured and a roadside bombing outside Falluja that left three police officers injured.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "Qadir Aziz, a guard in a driver training establishment" was shot dead in Kirkuk.
Reuters notes the corpse of 1 "pregnant woman" was found in Kut ("gunshot wounds").
Turning to the US presidential race. Yesterday's snapshot mentions a debate at Columbia. Maria Recio's "Third-party debate's only confirmed participant: the moderator" (McClatchy Newspapers) informs that it's iffy with Cynthia McKinney saying she's doing another debate, Ralph Nader hedging and apparently no real desire for it. Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate, Matt Gonzalez is his running mate. Today Nader writes "In the Public Interest: Closing the Courthouse Door:"
"Real change comes from the bottom up, not the top down. The genius of the American system has been to let that change flow upward, from neighborhoods to cities to states and then to the federal government." George W. Bush February 26, 2001.
Unfortunately, the difference between words and deeds in Washington is often shocking even to those who think they have seen it all. Alicia Mundy in the October 15, 2008 edition of the Wall Street Journal reports: "Bush administration officials, in their last weeks in office, are pushing to rewrite a wide array of federal rules with changes or additions that could block product-safety lawsuits by consumers and states."
What President George W. Bush should have said is that he believes in states rights when they are in the interest of Big Business and their lobbyists in Washington. Mr. Bush and his cronies would like to forget about those harmed by dangerous products or reckless conduct. Indeed, Bush & Company seem to regard the civil justice system as a nuisance that threatens to destroy our economy and way of life. In reality, America's civil justice system plays an indispensable role in our democracy. When the rights of injured consumers are vindicated in court, our society benefits in countless ways: compensating victims and their families for shattering losses (with the cost borne by the wrongdoers rather than taxpayers); preventing future injuries by deterring dangerous products and practices and spurring safety innovation; stimulating enforceable safety standards; educating the public to risks associated with certain products and services; and providing society with its moral and ethical fiber by defining appropriate norms of conduct.
The Center for Progressive Reform has in painstaking detail chronicled the attack on the civil Justice system by the Bush Administration. In "The Truth about Torts: Using Agency Preemption to Undercut Consumer Health and Safety" legal scholars William Funk, Sidney Shapiro, David Vladeck and Karen Sokol write: "In recent years, the Bush administration has launched an unprecedented aggressive campaign to persuade the courts to preempt state tort actions…. Widespread preemption of state tort law would significantly undermine, if not eliminate, the rights of individuals to seek redress for injuries caused by irresponsible and dangerous business practices and to hold manufacturers and others accountable for such socially unreasonable conduct." (See: http://www.progressiveregulation.org)
And, Les Weisbrod, the President of the American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) hit the nail on the head when he said: "In effect the Bush administration made the safety of Americans secondary to corporate profits." Mr. Weisbrod added: "Big business lobbyists have been on a crusade to destroy state consumer protection laws, and further stack the deck against American consumers." The American Association for Justice has just published a report titled: "Get Out of Jail Free: A Historical Perspective of How the Bush Administration Helps Corporations Escape Accountability" – this report is available at: www.justice.org/getoutofjailfree.
Tort deform comes in many shapes and sizes – but the common theme is that tort deform severely damages Americans' cherished constitutional right to trial by jury. It ties the hands of jurors, preventing them from doing justice as the case before them requires. Only the judges and juries see, hear, and evaluate the evidence in these cases. But it is the politicians, absent from the courtrooms, who push bills greased by campaign cash that send a perverse message to judge and jury.
Tort law has produced decades of slow but steady progress in state after state respecting the physical integrity of human beings against harm and recognition that even the weak and defenseless deserve justice. Instead of seeing this evolution as a source of national and global pride, a coalition of insurance companies, corporate defendants' lobbies, and craven politicians, led by George W. Bush, want to destroy our civil justice system.
When Georgetown Law School Professor David Vladeck testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 12, 2007, he noted that the Bush Administration has "seized on regulatory preemption as a way to cut back dramatically on State law remedies for those injured by products and services Americans depend on every day for their health and well-being: medicines, medical devices, motor vehicles, the mattress on which we and our children sleep, and the commuter trains millions of us take to work every day."
Let us hope that Congress and the Supreme Court stop Mr. Bush from once again trampling the Constitutional rights of citizens throughout the land and preventing victims of corporate violence from obtaining justice in a court of law.
Cynthia McKinney is the Green Party presidential candidate and Rosa Clemente is her running mate.
Green Party presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney will participate in a webcast forum for presidential candidates on Sunday, October 19, to be aired 7 to 9 pm on BreakTheMatrix.com.
Cynthia McKinney will join other candidates who've been invited to the online
forum, which has been organized by ThirdPartyTicket.com's Trevor Lyman.
Ms. McKinney will not appear at a candidates' forum at Columbia University on
the evening of October 19. The news of Ms. McKinney's participation in the Columbia event was released to the media in error by persons who are unassociated with the McKinney campaign, and who had not confirmed such
an appearance with Ms. McKinney or her staff.
"We invite everyone to go online, tune in to BreakTheMatrix.com, and listen to
Cynthia McKinney and the other candidates debate real issues. We'll hear Ms. McKinney offer ideas that have been censored from the McCain-Obama debates -- ideas that most Americans support, like bringing our troops home now, health care for everyone, and help for working Americans facing financial difficulty instead of a $700 billion bailout package for Wall Street," said John Judge, media secretary for the McKinney/Clemente Power to the People Committee.
Cynthia McKinney and running mate Rosa Clemente were nominated by the Green Party at the Green National Convention in Chicago this past July.
"A vote for Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente is an investment in a growing progressive antiwar party that accepts no corporate contributions. No other candidate in the 2008 election offers the hope of a permanent alternative to the Democrats and Republicans and the corporate interests that the two established parties serve. The Green Party isn't an alternative, it's an imperative," said Ms. Clemente.
Greens and other Americans have objected to the format of the McCain-Obama debates, which were sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), and which excluded all candidates except the Democratic and Republican nominee.
The CPD, which sets rules for candidate participation, is owned and run by the Democratic and Republican parties, which have an interest in excluding all candidates except their own. Greens noted that the CPD is funded through contributions from corporations, which have their own interests in limiting the candidates who participate in the debates.
Democracy Now! -- no link to trash -- had Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney on yesterday. Cynthia is the Green Party presidential candidate and wisely refused to take part in defending a White man who instigated more serious acts of violence than have the still persecuted Black Panthers (much to Goody's regret, Cynthia refused to rush to defend Bill Ayers). Ignoring Goody's need to for White privilege, McKinney responded:CYNTHIA McKINNEY: First of all, I think I should say that I believe that the people in this country need a political party and a movement that places our values on the political agenda. Obviously, with that exchange, that's not the case. There's something else that's a bit more troubling. I've also been talking about election integrity as I've gone across this country. But, you know, I really don't like the idea that the face of election fraud, given the past two presidential elections, is now a face of color and one of poor people. In 2000, when people went to the polls, when the voters went to the polls, they were met with confusing ballots, manipulation of the voter lists, electronic voting machines that didn't work, inappropriately or ineffectively or poorly trained officials who weren't familiar with the workings of those machines, and we know what the problems with those machines have been and are. We still have those problems that have been with us since 2000. In 2004, they added to these problems with the electronic poll books, the sleepovers that were discovered, where the machines weren't even secured, even intensifying the failures of the machines with the vote flipping, and usually in only one direction. The battery freezes in the midst of voters actually trying to cast their votes. And now we've got voter ID laws across the country, and we've got voter caging, which is a fancy way of purging people from the voter files. So, now, what kind of election is it when neither of the political parties is addressing the issue, the fundamental issue, of whether or not our votes are even going to be counted? McKinney's running mate is Rosa Clemente. Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate. Ralph took the bait so we won't note his exchange on that issue. Instead, we'll note this from him: RALPH NADER: There's no such thing as free trade with dictators and oligarchs in these countries, because the market doesn't determine the costs. There's no free collective bargaining for workers. That's a crime, de facto, in many countries, to try to form an independent trade union. There's no rule of law, bribery. These companies can go there and pollute at will. There's no judicial independence to make these companies accountable, and they abuse workers and consumers and communities, as the oil companies and the timber companies have on many occasions. Second, these-NAFTA and WTO have to be scrapped. Under those treaties, we can withdraw in six months and give notice of withdrawal and renegotiate these agreements for the following purpose: no more trade agreements that subordinate consumer, union, worker and environmental rights. These are pull-down trade agreements that are allowing fascist and corporate dictators to pull down our standards of living, because they know how to keep their workers in their place at fifty cents an hour. So, any new trade agreements should stick to trade. Any other treaty should be labor, environment and consumer on a level playing field. These trade agreements also have to be open, democratic. They cannot undermine our courts, our regulatory agencies and our legislature. That's what we've got to do. And our website, votenader.org, has ample information on this process. If you're in the mood to wade through garbage, you know where to go find the audio and video. Cynthia McKinney has the transcript posted at her campaign website. Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate, Matt Gonzalez is his running mate. In terms of the 'questions' Goody came up with, Ava and I will address that garbage on Sunday at Third.
Meghan McCain (McCainBlogette.com) offers her evaluation today on the debate Wednesday between her father, GOP presidential candidate John McCain, and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama: "My father nothing short of ROCKED Wednesday night's debate and I have never been more proud. He got up and showed this country why he is the right person to lead it into the future, and open the door to reinvention of the Republican Party. I am always proud of my Dad but even more so when he lets his maverick tendencies show so clearly. Eighteen more days to go and this election is nowhere near over!!!" McCain's running mate is Governor Sarah Palin. The McCain-Palin campaign has issued a press release that there's not room for in full. We'll quote from the top and include as much as possible (ues the link to read in full):
OBAMA MEDICARE MALPRACTICE #1: The Very Same Reforms That Barack Obama Calls "Cuts" Under John McCain, He Says Will "Strengthen" Medicare Under His Program
THE MALPRACTICE: While Saying Today That John McCain's Reforms Will "Cut" Medicare Spending, Barack Obama Says He Will "Strengthen" Medicare With His Reforms. OBAMA: "So what would Senator McCain's cuts mean for Medicare at a time when more and more Americans are relying on it? It would mean a cut of more than 20 percent in Medicare benefits next year. ... I think every single American has a right to affordable accessible health care. We can strengthen Medicare by eliminating wasteful subsidies to big HMOs in Medicare, and making sure seniors can access home-based care, and letting Medicare negotiate with drug companies for better prices. That's the kind of change we need." (Barack Obama, Remarks As Prepared For Delivery, Roanoke, VA, 10/17/08)
THE TRUTH: Just Two Days Ago, Barack Obama Highlighted His Own "Cut" To Medicare Spending. OBAMA: "And some of the cuts, just to give you an example, we spend $15 billion a year on subsidies to insurance companies. It doesn't -- under the Medicare plan -- it doesn't help seniors get any better. It's not improving our health care system. It's just a giveaway." (CNN, Presidential Candidate Debate, Hempstead, NY, 10/15/08)
THE TRUTH: One Such "Cut" That John McCain Must Support Under Barack Obama's Logic Is A Reform That Today, Barack Obama Said Would "Strengthen" Medicare. MCCAIN: "Government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid should lead the way in health care reforms that improve quality and lower costs. Medicare reimbursement now rewards institutions and clinicians who provide more and more complex services. We need to change the way providers are paid to focus their attention more on chronic disease and managing their treatment. This is the most important care for an aging population. There have been a variety of state-based experiments such as Cash and Counseling or The Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, called PACE, that are different from the inflexible approaches for delivering care to people in the home setting. Seniors are given a monthly allowance that they can use to hire workers and purchase care- related services and goods. They can get help managing their care by designating representatives, such as relatives or friends, to help make decisions. It also offers counseling and bookkeeping services to assist consumers in handling their programmatic responsibilities. In these approaches, participants were much more likely to have their needs met and be satisfied with their care. Moreover, any concerns about consumers' safety appeared to be misplaced. For every age group in every state, participants were no more likely to suffer care-related health problems." (John McCain, Remarks, Tampa, FL, 4/29/08)
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