Thursday, June 23, 2005

Democracy Now: Gloria Steinem, Yoruba Richen; Bob Somerby, Margaret Kimberly, Michael (Mikey Likes It), Betty's latest on her "husband" Thomas Friedman

Democracy Now! ("always worth watching" as Marcia says)
 Headlines for June 23, 2005

- Pentagon Launches Massive Database To Help Recruiting Efforts
- Social Security Admin. Criticized For Releasing Personal Info
- 47 Die in Iraq Bombings
- Prominent Sunni Professor Assassinated in Iraq
- Bush Calls For New Nuclear Plants
- Court to Hear Torture Lawsuit Against Donald Rumsfeld
- U.S. Marshals Shut Down Radio Free Brattleboro
Diamond Giant De Beers Opens First U.S. Store Amid Protests Over Eviction of Bushmen in Botswana

Diamond giant De Beers celebrated the opening of its first retail store in the United States amid protests decrying the company's involvement in the eviction of the San Bushmen in Botswana. We speak to the Bushmen organization First People of the Kalahari, rights group Survival International, feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem, and a De Beers consultant.
Gloria Steinem Remembers Feminist Writer and Activist Andrea Dworkin

Feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem remembers writer and activist Andrea Dworkin. She died at her home in Washington in Apri. Steinem says, "She is our Old Testament prophet raging in the hills, telling the truth...She really is a world mind that is still accessible to us through her work, and that is her greatest legacy." [includes rush transcript]
Milk Money: How Corporate Interests Shaped Government Health Policy for Women

Last summer, the Department of Health and Human Services unveiled an ad campaign to promote breast-feeding in the United States. We look at how baby formula corporations put intense pressure on the government to change its approach and eventually reshaped the campaign.
At The Daily Howler, Bob Somerby's addressing the Downing Street Memo as well as the issue of the book advertised as being about Hillary Clinton, the book by the overly made up, former New York Times Sunday Magazine staffer who keeps pimping his "I worked for the New York Times" c.v.  We'll focus on Downing:
Yes, Cheney took the hardest line, scaring NBC's Tim Russert good. But Rice, appearing on CNN's Late Edition, wasn't far behind. Indeed, Rice said something blatantly bogus--she told Wolf Blitzer that those aluminum tubes could only be used for nukes:
BLITZER (9/8/02): Based on what you know right now, how close is Saddam Hussein's government--how close is that government to developing a nuclear capability?

RICE: You will get different estimates about precisely how close he is. We do know that he is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon. We do know that there have been shipments going into Iran, for instance--into Iraq, for instance, of aluminum tubes that really are only suited to, high-quality aluminum tools that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs.

In an unusual development, Rice was actually right on one point. You would "get different estimates about how close" Saddam was--depending on how much various spokesmen exaggerated. Seeming to embellish everywhere, Rice now said that Saddam had been only six months away from having a nuke back in 1991; this trumped Cheney’s "within a year" claim from his initial speech, two weeks earlier. And Rice also said that those aluminum tubes could only be used to build nukes. That was a blatant misstatement of the intel, as Judis and Ackerman laid out in detail in the New Republic some nine months later (links below)--after Rice’s pimping of nukes had helped drive the nation to war.

To what extent was the Bush Admin faking the intel at this point? Plainly, Woodward says that Cheney overstated the intel about chemical and biological WMD. But Woodward also says and implies that major Bush figures did think Saddam had such weapons. For example, here’s what he says about Tommy Franks as of September 2002:

WOODWARD (page 173): Franks believed that Saddam did, in fact, have WMD, specifically weaponized chemicals. Intelligence officials from other countries had told him they believed Saddam had some weaponized biologicals. Over the years, Franks had seen thousands of pieces of intelligence that indicated that the guy had a terrific capability in WMD. He thought Saddam would use it if the U.S. military invaded, and he was preparing plans and protective chemical-biological suits for his troops fully expecting the worst case.
"But suspicion is not knowledge," Woodward writes. Indeed, Franks was also telling Bush at this time that these WMD had proven quite elusive. Franks is quoted at a September 6 meeting. "Mr. President," Franks tells Bush, "we've been looking for Scud missiles and other weapons of mass destruction for ten years and haven't found any yet, so I can't tell you that I know that there are any specific weapons anywhere. I haven't seen Scud one." Again, Woodward stresses the way the Admin overlooked such matters in its unequivocal statements that Saddam "no doubt" had WMD. According to Woodward, Franks' statement "could, and should, have been a warning that if the intelligence was not good enough to make bombing decisions, it probably was not good enough to make the broad assertion...that there was ‘no doubt’ that Saddam had WMD." However, in his next paragraph (quoted above), Woodward asserts that Franks did believe that Saddam "did, in fact, have WMD."

Did the Bush Admin start faking the intel shortly after the Downing Street memo? In Woodward's book, it's clear that they did. Woodward clearly says they overstated the intel about the general WMD question. Indeed, as Woodward stresses, after Cheney overstated the intel on August 26, and the president himself shortly followed, making unequivocal claims for the first time about Saddam's possession of WMD. Was there "no doubt" that Saddam had WMD? That just wasn't the state of the intel, Woodward stresses. But he also stresses that major players did believe that Saddam had such weapons.

But those scary nukes were different. Although Woodward downplays this part of the story, it is perfectly clear that the Bush Admin began pimping the nukes shortly after the Downing Street memo. Cheney's speech on August 26 raised the specter of nuclear attack. "Many of us are convinced that Saddam Hussein will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon," Cheney said--and he implied that "fairly soon" might mean "within a year." Cheney may have been "convinced" of this fact--some are convinced that the earth is flat--but this plainly wasn't the state of the intel, nor were Cheney's claims supported in the subsequent October NIE. And uh-oh! Two weeks after Cheney's speech, Rice went and out and embellished further, baldly misstating the actual intel regarding those aluminum tubes. Soon Bush himself was scaring the voters; in a major speech on October 7, he said "we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud." In short, within a few weeks of the Downing Street memo, the Bush Admin was "fixing the intel" by lustily pimping Saddam's scary nukes. Sadly, though, the liberal and Democratic establishments haven't put this info to good use in their critiques of the route to war in Iraq. More on their fumbled presentations as we continue tomorrow.

Cedric e-mails to note the latest from Margaret Kimberly (The Black Commentator) entitled "RX for Black Hearts:"

In 1997 the federal Food and Drug Administration declined to approve Bidil, a treatment for heart failure. Bidil is actually a combination of two generic drugs used to treat chest pain and hypertension. The FDA concluded that there was no proof of Bidil's effectiveness. That should have been the end of Bidil, until good old-fashioned capitalism and marketing turned its fortunes around.

Bidil has now been approved for use in black heart failure patients. It is the first drug in America that has been approved specifically for the use of one racial or ethnic group. NitroMed, the pharmaceutical company that will produce Bidil, acted very shrewdly. The drug maker achieved this success by giving the heads up to black leadership, lest it be accused of recreating the infamous Tuskegee experiment.

[. . .]

Past experience indicates that Bidil shouldn't be greeted as a health care panacea for anyone. It should be treated like all newly approved pharmaceuticals, with great caution if not suspicion. As Raymond Woosley, vice president for Health Sciences at the University of Arizona, advised Public Television, "Americans need to recognize that every time they put a pill in their mouth, especially a new pill that they've never taken before, it's an experiment. How big an experiment depends on the pill and how well it's been studied.”

NitroMed is using black people to get a drug approved that it couldn't get approved otherwise and in the process maintaining a patent that keeps cheaper generics off the market until the year 2020. "[I]f BiDil is approved for African Americans only, the drug will have patent protection to 2020," wrote Motley Fool biotechnology industry analyst Karl Thiel. "That's because patents based on this demographic were filed after studies showed the drug was ineffective in a broader population. If the drug is approved for a general heart failure audience, older use patents will apply and the drug would appear to have exclusivity only to 2007."

Bidil isn’t the 21st Century equivalent of the Tuskegee experiment. It is an example of what the pharmaceutical industry now does best, which is to produce drugs with dubious effectiveness that guarantee them large profits. Nitromed shares have risen from $6 last July to more than $19 when approval was imminent.

There should be an outcry over Bidil. A system that allows millions of people to go without health insurance, and consequently creates conditions such as heart failure, is now using those same people to repackage two generic drugs as a sort of medical magic bullet. Surely many of the African American heart failure patients would have been better off with universal health care, not a profit making gimmick that does them little good.

Trevor e-mails to note that Folding Star has a new post up at A Winding Road:
This interview is from the new issue of The Progressive, which arrived in my mailbox this week. It's definitely worth checking out. Personally, I think she's far too kind in her assessment of the current Democratic leadership, but I can't blame her for trying to be optimistic. Just think, though, what a difference it would make if Boxer herself was the Senate Minority Leader right now.

You can check the full interview out
here. I'll give you a taste:

Q: Were you surprised in the Bolton hearings when Senator Richard Lugar, the chair of the committee, prevented you from raising a point of order?

Barbara Boxer: I was amazed. I mean, one of my fondest relationships here is with Dick Lugar. I have found him to be totally fair. This was an exception. I can believe he is being asked to behave like this. And it doesn't suit him. He's really uncomfortable, I can tell.

Q: Do you think the cracks are beginning to show in the Republican Party?

Barbara Boxer: The American people are beginning to see the Republicans' willingness to trample over 200 years of history, to step on the minority, to push everybody out of the way because they want 100 percent. It's rubbing the American people the wrong way. One-party rule is not good. The American people as a whole are really pretty moderate. They're not, as a whole, conservative or liberal. The right wing is marching the Republican Party off a cliff.
Trevor:  It's always interesting to read what someone feels should be highlighted from an article.  Folding Star's interested Senator Barbara Boxer's take on a Republican and the the Republican Party and you were interested in the issue of Iraq from the interview.
I agree it's interesting to see what different people will highlight.  But KeShawn is the one who e-mailed that article to the site on Tuesday and I believe he selected the excerpt.
Cindy e-mails to note Michael's latest entry at Mikey Likes It! and to say how much "I am really enjoying his site."  Here's an excerpt:
Barry wrote that he read acout some stuff in the newspaper but didn't really "connect with it because at 42 it's not anything I've had to wonder about happening to me." If it helped anyone that's gravy.

Antonio e-mailed to share his story:

They act like friends and then they turn on you and you're confused and everybody likes to be liked so it's just this game they're playing. So I say I want to go to college and be a lawyer and they are like so cool with that and shooting the breeze and finding out more and more. Then they start telling me that my grades aren't good enough for college and that my father can't afford to send me to college and let's hope I'll be happy working at a taco stand. And I'm mad and angry and the taco stand crack was really supposed to get to me because I'm Latino.

Jordan e-mailed that they do a thing with women that's a little different:

They told me that it was fun & exciting and the only place that I'd be able to move up, that everywhere else there would be this celing but that I could do anything in the army. They said as a young woman I could sign out after four weeks if I didn't like it because that was a special thing they had for women. But I was "tough" and probably wouldn't need it. They started bringing up my older brother who they don't know and isn't in the military and I think they were trying to figure out if there was competition there between me and him. I told them to fuck off and started walking away and they start talking really loud about how "She's scared. Yep, she's just afraid." I almost turned around to tell them off but as mad I was, it was obvious that they were trying to make me mad.
And Kara e-mails to say "Tell everyone they can't miss Betty's latest!  She's practically doing a line by line response/mocking to Friedman!"  So you heard Kara, everyone, you can't miss Betty's latest which is entitled "Thomas Friedman Doesn't Know Where He Stands:"
It's not the usual drivel you've grown to expect from a relic of a bygone era who tosses "trendy" words around about as convincingly as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes so-called love affair.
It's much worse because my husband Thomas Friedman has a different status problem.

It is the fact that he's no longer clear where he stands. Or to put it more
musically, were he swiping from Joni Mitchell and being confessional, he would have entitled his column "I Don't Know Where I Stand" and not "Run, Dick, Run."

With a book that didn't even spend more weeks at number one than "
the actress" did with her book, and caused far less excitement than she did, Thomas Friedman's latest appears to ride the charts in a holding pattern that can only be called malingering.

Any original thought my husband Thomas Friedman once had, however slight, long ago was disproven. Thomas Friedman 2.0 is as ineffective as the early version only, these days, people have caught on.

And that explains, in part, why his op-ed space seems like a landfill not even Greenpeace would attempt to rehabilitate.

His mouth will go on, but his brain expired somewhere around 1994.

So what we're left with is the bag of goodies that has no rhyme or reason other than appearing to be everything he could order off the dollar menu at Wendy's in one visit. Saying that it aimlessly drifts would be giving Thomas Friedman's column too much credit because it's not unmoored sail boat, it's something far less friendly.

If Thomas Friedman had a following, or even a brain, he wouldn't seem so disconnected from the problems facing the country.
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