Monday, June 13, 2005

Democracy Now: Jubilee Debt Campaign, UK Indymedia, Mike German; Naomi Klein, Dahr Jamail, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Bob Somerby, Alex Cockburn . . .

Democracy Now! ("always worth watching" as Marcia says):
Headlines for June 13, 2005

- 75 Die in Violence In Iraq Over Weekend
- U.S. Death Toll In Iraq Tops 1700
- Pre-War Memo: Occupation WIll Be "Protracted and Costly"
- Iranian Women Stage Pre-Election Protests
- Congressional Panel Moves to Cut Public Media Funding
- Trial To Begin Over 1964 Slaying of Civil Rights Workers
- Senate to Apologize For Failing to Pass Anti-Lynching Legislation
Following Years of Protests, U.S. & G8 Nations Agree To Cancel Debt For 18 of the World’s Poorest Countries

The agreement comes after years of protests by activist groups because the debt has economically crippled dozens of nations in Africa and Latin America. While the Jubilee Debt Campaign praised the move as a needed first step, it said there are more than 40 other nations that need total debt cancellation.
FBI Whistleblower: White Supremacists Are Major Domestic Terrorist Threat

We speak with Mike German, an ex-FBI agent who resigned from the agency last year in protest of what he saw as continuing failures in the FBI counter terrorism program. German had worked for years going under cover to infiltrate domestic terrorist organizations like white supremacist skinhead groups and anti-government militias.
Iraqi Oil Workers Fight Privatization and Occupation

Public sector unions in Iraq were outlawed by Saddam Hussein in 1987. Now, the Iraqi labor movement is protesting plans by U.S. occupation authorities to privatize state owned industries. We speak with the president of the General Union of Oil Workers. [includes rush transcript]
In this morning's Daily Howler, Bob Somerby's addressing a number of issues.  (Including a brief passage on Stephanie Miller -- whom some community members enjoy listening to -- so consider that your heads up to go check The Howler in full.)  We're going to focus on this section on the Downing St. Memo:
DOWNING STREET BOZO: Maybe now you'll start to believe the things we've said about Michael Kinsley and, by extension, about the fops who are runing our mainstream press corps. In Sunday’s Post (and Los Angeles Times), Kinsley writes an astonishing column about the Downing Street memo. Do a gang of millionaire fops drive our discourse? In case you didn't know that already, Kinsley sets out to prove it--in spades.

As noted, Kinsley discusses the famous Downing Street memo; in it, a top adviser to Tony Blair seems to say that President Bush had decided on war with Iraq as early as July 2002 (and was "fixing" the facts and the intel accordingly). The memo appeared on May 1 in the Times of London; concerned citizens have been dissecting it from that day to this, even as the Washington press corps struggled to avoid all discussion. (Panel discussions about Kerry’s grades at Yale were far more germane.) But good news! The great Kinsley has finally read the whole memo! Drink in the sheer condescension as he explains why he did:

KINSLEY (6/12/05; pgh 1): After about the 200th e-mail from a stranger demanding that I cease my personal coverup of something called the Downing Street Memo, I decided to read it. It's all over the blogosphere and Air America, the left-wing talk radio network: This is the smoking gun of the Iraq war. It is proof positive that President Bush was determined to invade Iraq the year before he did so. The whole "weapons of mass destruction" concern was phony from the start, and the drama about inspections was just kabuki: going through the motions.
At the Times, Daniel Okrent always seemed to think it was beneath his dignity to receive e-mails from the herd, and Kinsley betrays the same condescension, grumping about the effort required to get him to do his job. Only after receiving demands from hundreds of "strangers" did he do what any citizen would; only then did he bother to read "something called the Downing Street Memo," the locution he uses to show his disdain for the people who asked him to function. And if you don't find yourself struck by Kinsley's bald condescension, we hope you'll find yourself insulted when you read his account of the memo's contents. "I don't buy the fuss," Kinsley writes. Then he starts to explain why that is:
KINSLEY (2): Although it is flattering to be thought personally responsible for allowing a proven war criminal to remain in office, in the end I don't buy the fuss. Nevertheless, I am enjoying it, as an encouraging sign of the revival of the left. Developing a paranoid theory and promoting it to the very edge of national respectability takes a certain amount of ideological self-confidence. It takes a critical mass of citizens with extreme views and the time and energy to obsess about them. It takes a promotional infrastructure and the widely shared self-discipline to settle on a story line, disseminate it and stick to it.
There you start to have it, readers! If you think the Downing Street memo may show or suggest that Bush was determined to invade Iraq early on, you have "a paranoid theory" and "extreme views"--and "the time and energy to obsess about them." (This distinguishes you from Kinsley, who didn't have the time or energy to read the memo until forced.) Indeed, throughout his piece, Kinsley keeps saying that you're an “extremist” with "extreme views" if you're bothered by this memo's contents. Maybe now you'll believe what we've told you about this bizarre, fallen man.
FYI, Somerby's take on Howard Dean is different than the community's.  He's welcome to his take (and may be correct).  But before some "centrist" visitor feels the need to e-mail "You quoted Downing St! because you wanted to cover for Dean!"  Actually, I quoted it because it was Downing St.  Something we've focused on here. 
Joan e-mails to note Katrina vanden Heuvel's latest, "It's the Class, Stupid!"  From the entry:
In recent weeks, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have run a series of articles about issues of class and inequality in America.

These two media pillars have comprehensively taken on the root myth of the American way, reporting facts that are so stark and clear that they can no longer be ignored. The gap between rich and poor is widening dramatically; There's been a startling lack of upward mobility over the last three decades; And Americans face no better odds today that they will climb the ladder to a higher economic rung where their parents stood than they did 35 years ago.

[. . .]
As Paul Krugman noted, commenting on his paper's series in his column, "Since 1980 in particular, US government policies have consistently favored the wealthy at the expense of working families--and under the current administration, that favoritism has become extreme and relentless." Conservative economic policies are fueling this phenomenon of an increasingly stratified America. Republicans refuse to raise the minimum wage, which has remained stuck at a paltry $5.15 an hour since 1997. Bankruptcy "reform" savages the working class. Meanwhile, Bush's tax cuts handed a tax reduction of more than $4,500 to the top fifth of income-earners while those in the lowest quintile received an average of only $98 annually off their tax bills.
Which is our opportunity to pick up on Saturday's Daily Howler.  Bob Somerby's dealing with a number of issues.  This includes The Chris Matthews Show, a disaster Ava and I caught part of while rewinding CSI Miami while we working on our review of that show. We're going to focus on his remarks from the entry involving Krugman:

KRUGMAN EATS OKRENT FOR LUNCH: In yesterday's seminal column, Paul Krugman had some innocent fun with Manhattan high foppist Daniel Okrent:

KRUGMAN (6/10/05): Since 1980 in particular, U.S. government policies have consistently favored the wealthy at the expense of working families--and under the current administration, that favoritism has become extreme and relentless...

It's not a pretty picture--which is why right-wing partisans try so hard to discredit anyone who tries to explain to the public what's going on.

These partisans rely in part on obfuscation: shaping, slicing and selectively presenting data in an attempt to mislead.

In the highlighted passage, Krugman mocks Okrent, who wrote the following in his final column as New York Times public editor: "Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults." Yep--Daniel Okrent was talkin' real tough. But uh-oh! When Okrent was challenged about this by Krugman, the hapless fellow collapsed in a pile. Yesterday, Krugman had some fun with his accuser, poking at him as a six-year-old boy might probe a jelly fish on a beach.

But Krugman's column contained more than fun. In it, he discusses an eternal story--the endless efforts of powerful interests to gain more power over the weak. In the present context, Krugman explains that wealthy interests have spent the past several decades obliterating an earlier, middle-class America. Here is the start of his column:

KRUGMAN (6/10/05): Baby boomers like me grew up in a relatively equal society. In the 1960's America was a place in which very few people were extremely wealthy, many blue-collar workers earned wages that placed them comfortably in the middle class, and working families could expect steadily rising living standards and a reasonable degree of economic security.

But as The Times's series on class in America reminds us, that was another country. The middle-class society I grew up in no longer exists.

This is a very important story--the most significant story Krugman has told. His fuller version of this story appeared in the Times magazine in October 2002. To read its full text, just click here.
In other Times' critiques, Ellis e-mails to note Alexander Cockburn's "Thomas Friedman's Imaginary World" (from CounterPunch):

I remembered Bradsher's excited commendation of Naidu's hikes in the price of electricity and his anti-union rampages when I read the reports filed by U.S. correspondents and pundits from Paris, after the French Non! to the EC proposed constitution a couple of weeks ago. It was striking how many of them, presumably without any direct orders from the owners of their publications, started lecturing the French in the tones of nineteenth-century Masters of Capital.

The "Non", they howled, disclosed the cosseted and selfish laziness of French workers. On inspection this turned out to mean that French workers have laws protecting their pensions, health benefits, leisure time and other outlandish buttresses of a tolerable existence. No one was more outraged than Friedman, a man who, we can safely surmise, does have health benefits, enjoys confidence about his retirement along with a robust six-figure income plus guaranteed vacations plus a pleasant ambulatory existence living in nice hotels, confabbing with CEOs, and lecturing gratified businessmen on their visionary nature and the virtues of selfishness.

From Bangalore Friedman issued a furious rebuke. "French voters are trying to preserve a 35-hour work week in a world where Indian engineers are ready to work a 35-hour day. Next to India, Western Europe looks like an assisted-living facility with Turkish nurses." I guess it does, though "engineers" is rather a dignified label to fix on the cyber-coolies ­ underpaid clerical workers ­ who toil night and day in Bangalore's call centers. But if you want a race to the bottom of the sort Friedman calls for, you don't have to travel too far from Bangalore, maybe ­ though any direction will do ­ north-east into the former realm of posterboy Naidu to find an Indian reality compared with which the so-called IT breakthroughs in India are like gnat bites on the hide of one of those buffaloes you see in photos in articles headlined "Timeless India Faces Change".

In the Naidu years at least 5,000 Indian farmers committed suicide. Across India, they're still killing themselves. (A Kisan Sabha ­ farmers' union ­ survey of just 26 households in Wayanad, in northern Kerala, that had seen suicides shows a total debt of over Rs. 2 million. Or about Rs. 82,000 per household (which is the equivalent of just under $2,000. The average size of these farms is less than 1.4 acres. And a good chunk of that debt is owed to private lenders.)

Cockburn's addressing the Friedman column that Betty did at her site (Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man) in the entry entitled "Thomas Friedman is a petty man:"
Regardless, it was with trepidation that I read the column Thomas Friedman kept thursting in my face this morning.

It's, as I told Thomas Friedman, the most embarrassing thing I've ever read. Embarrassing because a child knows better. Embarrassing because I'm married to the global village idiot that wrote it.

Note that he once again claims to be in India. He also says he was in Europe. Ninth Street isn't Europe. But Thomas Friedman says "it adds color."

He manages to insult everyone, not the least of which is any reader who took joy in reading in Friedman's columns. There have to a few of those, right?

He never came off more simple minded. Take this sentence, "It is interesting because French voters are trying to preserve a 35-hour work week in a world where Indian engineers are ready to work a 35-hour day." A thrity-five hour day? Again, Thomas Friedman's defense is it "adds color."

Way to tackle the tough issues, I told him.

"Indians are ready to work harder" than Americans and Europeans probably pissed off at least two continents right there. For someone so quick to point a lazy finger, Thomas Friedman is the king of sloth. Many's a day when the only way I can trick him into getting out of bed before ten is to trick him and tell him that The Young and the Restless is on. He swears Nick Newman is so him. Personally, he reminds me more of Victor of the bad mustache.

So who is this highly pampered man to lecture anyone about hard work?

Take this sentence which made my blood boil: "Sure, a huge portion of India still lives in wretched slums or villages, but more and more of the young cohort are grasping for something better."

That's right, Thomas Friedman, disadvantaged people are disadvantaged because they choose to be. And, of course, because they are lazy.

I read that sentence and wanted to punch him in his lantern moon-faced jaw.

Thomas Friedman grew very angry at me. I told him I had even started to speak.

"You see yourself as the Paul Revere of the global village," I informed him, "But in truth, you are the world's Gladys Kravitz, the nosy neighbor on Bewitched, peering in the neighbors' windows and forever getting the details wrong."

Thomas Friedman's face grew bright red and he started huffing and puffing. Picking up a can of cheese, he looked at me and I knew he was considering hitting me over the head with it or, perhaps, throwing it in my face yet again.

"Do not even think about it," I hissed. "And for God's sake, put on some pants. That shorty robe does not go with your stick legs!"
Charlie e-mails to note Dahr Jamail's latest from Iraq Dispatches (from June 10th), "State Sponsored Civil War:"
Yesterday at a conference in Baghdad, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a prominent Shia leader who is also the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq announced, "In gratitude to the efforts, sacrifices and heroic positions of our brothers and brave sons from the Badr Organization."

"We must give them the priority in bearing administrative and government responsibilities especially in the security field," he added, while the "President" of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, listened on.

The Badr Organization (formerly known as the Badr Brigade) was formed by al-Hakim's brother in the ‘80’s to fight Saddam Hussein. It has long since received funding and other "support" from Iran.

While civilians in Fallujah, Mosul, Ramadi, Baquba, Baghdad, Haditha and other cities in Iraq continue to complain of being beaten, looted and humiliated by the members of the Iraqi Army who are members of both the Badr Organization and Kurdish Peshmerga, these militias now have the overt backing of the interim Iraqi "government."

It is also being reported that members of the Badr Organization, who are essentially running much of the "security" in southern Iraq at this point, have been instituting Sharia law. Thus, women are reporting being threatened with death or rape if they attend university, and more conservative clothing rules are being enforced.

Recently a Sunni cleric was assassinated in the south.

KeShawn e-mails to note Naomi Klein's latest "A Noose, Not a Bracelet:"

Gordon Brown has a new idea about how to "make poverty history" in time for the G-8 summit in Scotland. With Washington so far refusing to double its aid to Africa by 2015, the British Chancellor is appealing to the "richer oil-producing states" of the Middle East to fill the funding gap. "Oil wealth urged to save Africa," reads the headline in London's Observer.

Here is a better idea: Instead of Saudi Arabia's oil wealth being used to "save Africa," how about if Africa's oil wealth was used to save Africa--along with its gas, diamond, gold, platinum, chromium, ferroalloy and coal wealth?

With all this noblesse oblige focused on saving Africa from its misery, it seems like a good time to remember someone else who tried to make poverty history: Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was killed ten years ago this November by the Nigerian government, along with eight other Ogoni activists, sentenced to death by hanging. Their crime was daring to insist that Nigeria was not poor at all but rich, and that it was political decisions made in the interests of Western multinational corporations that kept its people in desperate poverty. Saro-Wiwa gave his life to the idea that the vast oil wealth of the Niger Delta must leave behind more than polluted rivers, charred farmland, rancid air and crumbling schools. He asked not for charity, pity or "relief" but for justice.

Lastly, Lyle e-mails to note Binaj Gurubarcharya's "Nearly 100 Journalists Arrested in Nepal" (Associated Press):
Police arrested nearly 100 journalists Monday after scuffling with them during a protest to demand King Gyanendra immediately lift media restrictions in Nepal imposed four months ago.
[. . .]

Protesters from the Federation of Nepalese Journalists were arrested as they marched into a restricted area near the royal palace, chanting: "Free the press! Withdraw censorship!"

Lyle: "Free the press!" That's a phrase we should be chanting in this country.
In answer to Penny's question, yes, this morning's link (via BuzzFlash) to excerpts of a Carl Bernstein Rolling Stone article from 1977 (entitled "The CIA and the Media") is the article I noted the Times didn't mention in their overview of Bernstein & Woodward.  It is an important article and, thankfully, Rolling Stone was willing to print it when others couldn't or wouldn't.
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