Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Democracy Now! Robert Fisk, McLibels & McDonalds; Somerby on The Trouble with Tim; Katrina vanden Heuvel on Gannon; NOW on judicial re-nominations ...

Eddie will be very happy with Democracy Now! this morning because someone he's identified as a voice that speaks to him yesterday is a guest today -- Robert Fisk.

Headlines for February 16, 2005
- 150,000 Attend Ex-Premier's Funeral In Beirut
- Kidnapped Italian Journalist in Iraq Pleas for Life
- Reporters Face Jail For Not Naming Sources
- Senate OKs Michael Chertoff, 98-0
- ACLU Calls For Special Counsel To Investigate Torture
- Thousands Mourn Death of American Nun In Brazil
- Civil Rights Commission Purges Reports Critical of Bush

Robert Fisk on the Beirut Bombing, U.S.-Syrian Relations and the Iraqi Elections
Longtime foreign corresponded Robert Fisk joins us from his home in Beirut. He is the author of "Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon." He arrived at the scene of the assassination of former Prime Minister on Monday just moments after the explosion and describes what happened.

McLibel: British Activists Sued for Distributing McDonald's Flyers Win Court Case
Two activists sued by McDonalds in Britain won their case against the British government, in a case that could change UK libel law forever. The European Court of Human Rights said the UK legal system breached the right to a fair trial and freedom of _expression. Activists David Morris and Helen Steel were sued by McDonalds in 1990 for handing out leaflets called "What"s Wrong with McDonald's", accusing the company of paying low wages, cruelty to animals used in its products and dozens of other malpractices.

McDonald's To Pay $8.5 Million For Misleading Public About Use of Trans Fat
McDonalds has settled a lawsuit over its use of trans fats, a dangerously unhealthy oil. The hamburger chain must pay $8.5 million for advertising claims that it cut trans fat from its French fries. The company announced the switch to healthier oil in September 2002, but five months later said there was a delay.

In The Daily Howler this morning, Bob Somerby is explaining The Trouble With Tim (our phrase, not Somerby's):

Good grief! In general, Russert seemed to be asking if Bush was being honest about the costs of privatization. But his rambling "question" lasted almost two minutes, and a whole fleet of "moving parts" were involved. At one point, for example, he referred to the program's "transition costs" -- the massive sums that must be borrowed to finance creation of private accounts. But then, he also referred to benefit cuts (although he never used the term) -- the steep cuts in future guaranteed benefits that seem to be required by this program. And as if to show how inept he can be, he threw in some puzzling technical terms; for example, he defined "wage indexing" on the fly, then pointlessly used the term later on, in the midst of a blizzard of dueling percentages. Along the way, there was something about "their three highest years' income" -- a reference that surely befuddled most viewers. His "question" was endless, and completely incoherent. Just how awful was Russert's query? To one side of the TV screen, Charlie Rangel was clearly seen doing a crossword puzzle by the time the speech came to an end.

Over at The Nation's Editor's Cut, Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Faux Journalism" notes the Jeff Gannon issue by putting it into a larger perspective:

As the Gannongate scandal grows more disturbing by the day, it is worth remembering that this is but the latest round in the Bush White House's assault on the freedom of the press.
It started with
loyalty oaths at Bush campaign events, which turned town hall meetings into infomercials. This proved so successful they've exported the strategy. When Condi met with a group of French intellectuals, their questions were pre-screened for anti-Bush bias. (It was presumably a rather short Q&A session.)
Then we discovered the Bush Administration was using taxpayer dollars to buy the fourth estate and turn it into a dude ranch.
Armstrong Williams was paid a quarter million to pimp for No Child Left Behind. Maggie Gallagher and Mike McManus, who should talk to Armstrong's agent, were paid considerably less to hold forth on the gay marriage amendment.

Katrina vanden Heuvel -- not "venden" as I wrongly typed yesterday.

Over at NOW there's a strong take on nominating the rejected, "Bush Says Happy Valentine's Day with a Dozen Dreadful Judicial Re-Nominees" (by Linda Berg):

Instead of a dozen roses for Valentine's Day, George W. Bush sent a handful of weeds to the Senate by re-nominating a dozen judges who had already withered on the vine during the last two congresses. In this "love letter" to women, people of color, people with disabilities, people who care about the environment and those who concern themselves with good government, Bush resubmitted the following suitors for Senate approval:
Terrence Boyle (re-nominated to the Fourth Circuit): This former aide to Jesse Helms, who holds an honorary degree from radical right Bob Jones University, was one of the first to rule that the Americans with Disabilities Act did not apply to the states. He was twice reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court after siding with white plaintiff voters in redistricting cases. Boyle also has declared that states are not obligated to adhere to equal opportunity laws in hiring when the state's "culture" does not approve of women working in certain fields.
Janice Rogers Brown (D.C. Circuit): This California justice has suggested that the First Amendment protects racially discriminatory speech in the workplace. She claims that the Social Security system is unconstitutional and accused senior citizens of "blithely cannibalizing their grandchildren." Brown is infamous for her 2000 decision upholding California Prop.209, which bans affirmative action for women and minorities in public contracts, hiring and college admissions. In her one opinion involving abortion, Brown ruled that a lower court's determination that a parental consent law was unconstitutional, allowed courts to "topple every cultural icon, to dismiss all societal values, and to become the final arbiters of traditional morality."
Richard A. Griffin (Sixth circuit): Griffin has argued that federal and state disability law does not apply to prisoners. His decision holding that striking workers are not entitled to unemployment compensation was reversed on appeal. Griffin was also reversed when he misconstrued the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act and dismissed a sex-discrimination case filed by a pregnant employee who had been suspended from her job.
Thomas B. Griffith (D.C. Circuit): This general counsel to Brigham Young University practiced law without a license for three years. As a member of the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics, he proposed a series of changes to Title IX, the law guaranteeing equal educational opportunities to women and girls, which if implemented would have had devastating effects on equality for women in school sports. Griffith compares his political philosophy to that of ultra-conservative Senator Rick Santorum.

Click on the link for the article to continue reading.

And check out the ACLU and, especially, Laura W. Murphy's statement "ACLU Calls for Full Discourse on Controversial Patriot Act Powers; President’s Support of Automatic Renewal Fails American’s Freedoms." From the statement:

Appearing before the Department of Justice, President Bush has yet again called on Congress to renew the Patriot Act. While 10 percent of that act is set to sunset at the end of this year, we should be mindful that Congress specifically designed those controversial provisions to expire so that cooler heads could examine, review, and-- if warranted -- amend and renew them.
Indeed, the 9/11 Commission found that "a full and informed debate on the Patriot Act would be healthy." The attorney general noted during his confirmation hearing that he is aware that "there are concerns about possible infringement of civil liberties." Congress has a responsibility to thoroughly examine the Patriot Act's effectiveness and its impact on our most fundamental freedoms.
Across the country, 371 communities in 43 states - including four state legislatures - have passed resolutions demanding that the Patriot Act be fixed and brought back in line with the Constitution. Some 56 million Americans live these communities - a number that will only increase as the sunset deadline nears.
The president and the attorney general must realize that security and liberty are not - and cannot - be mutually exclusive. Most of the Patriot Act is innocuous from a civil liberties viewpoint, but a few select powers raise constitutional red flags. They should be fine-tuned to give law enforcement the tools they need, but also protect our freedoms and liberties. A system of proper checks and balances must be preserved.