Saturday, April 30, 2005

NYT: A. Elizabeth Jones becomes the latest to say "no" to Bolton, Pepper Spray Eight win symbolic victory, Portland says bye-bye to FBI task force

Molly e-mails to note Douglas Jehl's "Bolton's Nomination Is Questioned by Another Powell Aide:"

A fourth senior member of Colin L. Powell's team at the State Department expressed strong reservations on Friday about the nomination of John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations.
The official, A. Elizabeth Jones, is a veteran diplomat who stepped down in February as assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia. Among those who have now voiced public concerns about Mr. Bolton, Ms. Jones joins Lawrence Wilkerson, Mr. Powell's chief of staff; Carl W. Ford, Jr., who headed the department's intelligence bureau; and John R. Wolf, who was assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation. Associates of Mr. Powell have said he has expressed concerns of his own in private conversations with at least two Republican senators.

"I don't know if he's incapable of negotiation, but he's unwilling," Ms. Jones said in an interview. She said she believed that "the fundamental problem," if Mr. Bolton were to become United Nations ambassador, would be a reluctance on his part to make the kinds of minor, symbolic concessions necessary to build consensus among other governments and maintain the American position.

Regarding Eduardo Porter's "A Democrat on Bush's Social Security Team," Billy e-mails in wondering how a Democrat can be in bed with Bush? I'll avoid the easy laughs and once again note that there's not a huge gulf between neoliberals and neocons. One bullies at gun point, the other through economic blackmail. Either way a country's right to self-determination and self-rule goes out the window when the "neos" come along. As for Bush's embrace of "Democrat" Robert C. Pozen, the Republicans love Zell Miller too. Maybe Pozen, Miller and Joe Lieberman can big-tent their way into another party?

Paul, Joan, Keesha, Zach, Elaine, Carl and Beth all e-mailed regarding "National Briefing." For members not familiar with the section, this is a series of paragraphs on various states. In November and December, we often utilized this section because it was where the rare Ohio story appeared (or at least ones not mocking). Two items are standing out to members this morning.

The first item is:

WEST CALIFORNIA: SPRAYED PROTESTERS WIN SUIT A federal jury in San Francisco sided with eight logging opponents who said law enforcement officials used excessive force when they swabbed pepper spray on the eyes of protesters to break up demonstrations in 1997. The eight jurors awarded $1 to each plaintiff against Humboldt County sheriff's deputies and Eureka police officers. Carolyn Marshall (NYT)

To anyone new to the above story, it has been covered by Democracy Now! many times. For
a longer story that will provide background, I'd suggest the September 8, 2004 story entitled
"Trial Set to Begin Over Use of Pepper Spray-Soaked Cotton Swabs on Non-Violent Protesters in 1997."

Here is in the introduction to that report:

On three separate occasions in a three-week span in the fall of 1997, Humboldt County police officers arrived at peaceful sit-in protests calling for the protection of Headwaters Forest in northern California.
On all three occasions, the activists - who ranged in age from 16 to 40 years-old - locked their arms in metal pipes to participate in a non-violent protest of logging practices. And on all three occasions, the police responded using a method that Amnesty International would later deem "tantamount to torture."
One by one, police officers forcibly seized the heads of each demonstrator and inserted cotton swabs saturated with the chemical agent pepper spray into their eyes. In two of the cases, officers also sprayed the substance directly into their eyes at close range.
The eight activists filed a civil rights lawsuit against Humboldt County later that month. In connection with the suit, police video-tapes of the pepper spraying were released to the public. When excerpts of the tapes aired on network television news, the graphic images drew international outrage and condemnation.
The case went to court in 1998, but the trial ended in a hung jury. Over the following years, challenges were made at the state, appeals court and US Supreme Court levels. Today the civil rights case of the "Pepper Spray Eight" returns to trial in San Francisco.
To talk about this case, we are joined on the phone from San Francisco by the lead counsel in the lawsuit, Dennis Cunningham and one of the plaintiffs in the case, Spring Lundberg. Before we speak to them, we go back seven years to the morning of September 25, 1997 where Spring and other activists were engaging in a sit-in protest at Pacific Lumber's offices, in Scotia, California. The police arrived on the scene. This is what happened.

The report is listen, watch or read. You'll see footage of the forced swabbing. It's a powerful report.

As for the monetary involvement, it was a symbolic victory. The San Franciso Chronicle has a report on this entitled "Logging protesters win pepper spray case Jury awards $1 each after third trial over Humboldt incident." From the article by Stacy Finz:

This time, Attorney Dennis Cunningham asked the jurors to award Spring Lundberg, who was 17 at the time of the protests, and the other seven plaintiffs in the case between $10,000 and $100,000 for pain and suffering. Despite the jury's paltry award, he said his clients feel vindicated.
"It was never about the money," Cunningham said. "It was always about the principle."
He said that the jurors, who appeared to be emotionally drained after the two-week trial, didn't say much about how they came to their decision. He said he could only surmise that the eight-person panel compromised.
"They probably felt that the cops had to do something," said Cunningham, adding that although the protesters did not suffer long-term injuries from the pepper spray, it was a "profound experience that will stay with them for the rest of their lives."
Police and deputies put pepper spray directly into the eyes of the protesters, who had chained themselves together, in hopes that the burning would force them to unlock their shackles.

Why doesn't the Times play it up as an full blown article and not just a brief? Well, hey, I'd be the last to knock the Times' committment to social justice on environmental matters in their own area. I mean, they're always front paging pressing issues effecting wealthy and powerful friends who are concerned that their doorman might not be able to hear the call of a bird or some other pressing need. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) The Times appears to prefer their environmental activism take place around a table at Elaine's. (That sarcasm is aimed at the reporting in the main section. The science section does do actual environmental reporting. Editorials frequently speak out on pressing environmental issues. But as many have noted, to make the front page, you need to occupy one of a certain set of addresses.)

The second item from "National Briefing" that members are e-mailing about is this:

OREGON: CITY QUITS TERRORISM FORCE Portland became the first city to pull out of an F.B.I.-led Joint Terrorism Task Force after the City Council voted for the action on Thursday. The departure stems from an impasse between the bureau and Mayor Tom Potter over his request for top-secret clearance. Mr. Potter said he needed the clearance to supervise two police officers on the force, both with top-secret clearances. The bureau denied the request. Eli Sanders (NYT)

This is a follow up to a story (we noted it earlier) and it was big news to members then. Now it's a paragraph, an aside, but please note, we get another full story on the Michael Jackson case.
No doubt, the Times will be so proud of their coverage of the Jackson case that they'll compile it into one volume and issue it as a book. Kind of like those People Profiles paperbacks that People was so fond in 1999. (They may still be fond of them, I don't believe I've seen any since Julia Roberts or Meg Ryan graced the cover.)

Might I suggest a title for that volume? Perhaps "The New York Times Goes Wacko for Jacko?"

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