Thursday, July 21, 2005

Democracy Now: Dave Zirin, Father Gerard Jean-Juste; Bob Somerby, Margaret Kimberly, Bruce Dixon, Elizabeth Holtzman on The Randi Rhodes Show this aft

Italian Prosecutor Wants CIA Arrests
An Italian prosecutor asked an appeals court Wednesday to issue arrest warrants for six more purported CIA operatives, accusing them of helping plan the kidnapping of an Egyptian Muslim cleric in 2003. An Italian court issued warrants for 13 alleged CIA officers last month but turned down a request by prosecutor Armando Spataro to issue warrants for six Americans accused of helping prepare the abduction of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr. According to the AP, the prosecutor's request says the six were involved in studying the area in Milan where the cleric was seized and his habits, as well as the best routes to the highway the kidnappers would use to bring the Egyptian to Aviano, a joint U.S.-Italian air base north of Venice. Nasr was allegedly snatched on a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003, flown from Aviano to Ramstein air base in Germany and then to Egypt, where he reportedly was tortured. The operation was allegedly part of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program, in which terror suspects are transferred to third countries without court approval, subjecting them to possible torture.

Roberts Meets With Senators, Pro-Choice Groups Protest
Supreme Court nominee John Roberts met with key senators from both parties yesterday as the White House rolled out a methodical campaign to secure his confirmation and Democrats posed their first probing questions. Abortion and access to internal government memos loomed as likely flash points as Democrats pointed toward the nationally televised proceedings. Meanwhile, civil liberties and women's rights groups continue to protest against Roberts’s nomination. Last night in New York, City Council member Margarita Lopez spoke at a rally organized by Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights Action League.
Margarita Lopez:"My reproductive system is mine and mine and mine only! It doesn't belong to anybody else except me. I decide what happens to it, what I do to it and it's mine to take care of it. Whatever I do is between me and my doctor when I have to make decisions about it. George Walker Bush! Keep your filthy hands out of my body!"

The two items above are from Headlines on today's Democracy Now! and were selected by Lily and Rod. Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for July 21, 2005
- Algerian Diplomats Kidnapped in Baghdad
- Twin Suicide Bombings in Iraq
- New Saudi Ambassador Linked to bin Laden 9/11?
- Roberts Meets With Senators, Pro-Choice Groups Protest
- Memo Identified Plame as Undercover
- Italian Prosecutor Wants CIA Arrests
- London Mayor Blames Western Policy for London Bombs
- Mass Hunger Strike at Guantanamo?

Day of Protest Decries Deaths in Haiti
In Haiti violence continues two weeks after a UN raid in Cite Soleil may have left as many as 23 people dead. Today there are coordinated protests in Brazil and ten cities throughout North America. We go to Port-au-Prince to hear from Lavalas leader Father Gerard Jean-Juste.

What's My Name, Fool!: Sports and Resistance in the United States
As London prepares for the 2012 olympics in the aftermath of the July 7 bombings, we look at the history of crackdowns in olympic cities over the past century. Sports writer Dave Zirin chronicles a history of athletes who have stood up to war and racism in the United States, from Muhammad Ali to Pat Tillman. His new book is "What's My Name, Fool!: Sports and Resistance in the United States."

At The Daily Howler today, Bob Somerby's addressing the issue of press dissembling and tying it into 1999:

JOHN ROBERTS WAS A STEEL-DRIVIN’ MAN: John Roberts was a steel-drivin’ man—and George Bush wanted the public to know it. “When Mr. Bush presented Judge Roberts...on Tuesday night, he made special mention of the judge's having worked summers in steel mills, an apparent effort to give him some working-class cachet,” Neil Lewis wrote in the New York Times (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/20/05). Result? In a well-reasoned column in today’s Post, E. J. Dionne handed Roberts his props:
DIONNE (7/21/05): The issues at stake [in this nomination] are not abstract. They have to do with the government's power to protect the environment, to safeguard civil rights, including the rights of the disabled, and to provide protections for employees and consumers. It's admirable that this son of a steel executive worked some summers in a steel mill. More important is how he would rule on cases involving steelworkers and other working men and women.

"It's admirable that this son of a steel executive worked some summers in a steel mill," Dionne conceded--reminding us of the way George Bush ended up in control of this process.
Yes, the youthful John Roberts worked in a mill--but then, the youthful Al Gore had worked on a farm! But uh-oh! When Gore mentioned this fact in March 1999 (responding to idiot jibes by Bill Bradley), no one at the Washington Post said it was "admirable that this son of a senator worked some summers on a farm." In fact, the reaction could hardly have been more different. What happened when Gore made his accurate statement, in response to Bradley's jibes? Here's what happened: The late Michael Kelly ran one of the most dishonest--and most influential--op-ed columns in recent years, a column which plainly implied that Gore was making ludicrous claims about those alleged youthful summers. Kelly, of course, knew Gore's statements were accurate; at the Baltimore Sun, he had profiled Gore's youthful work on the farm when Gore ran for president in 1987-88. (Kelly had described Gore's youthful work in detail. Links below.) But so what? In March 1999, the press corps had itself in a tizzy; its shorts were clearly in a large wad. Clinton's impeachment trial had just ended, and Gore was going out on the trail. Result? The corps began a twenty-month War Against Gore--a war in which the furious corps would insist that Gore was a liar, just like Clinton. So Kelly wrote his disgraceful column--a column he knew was baldly misleading--and weak-minded pundits across the country ran to follow suit. Al Gore had been "delusional" when he mentioned his farm chores, major pundits began reciting. And so began the twenty-month war which eventually put George Bush in the White House. Because people like Kelly lied in your faces when Gore discussed his youthful farm chores, George Bush was on TV this week, talking about his nominee’s youthful work as a steel-drivin' man. Because the press corps lied about Gore's chores, we now get to hear them tell the truth about the hard work of John Roberts.
Times sure-enough have changed since then, ain’t they? Back in 1999, no one at the Washington Post said it was "admirable" that Gore had worked some long, hard summers on a farm in Tennessee. And no one stood up and spoke back to Kelly, although everyone--surely including Dionne--knew that his piece was pure bullshit. How did they know this? We ourselves conducted a three-day exchange with Kelly that April, in the pages of the Hotline. And the Post was good enough to publish a letter in which we quoted Kelly's previous work about Gore--work in which he explicitly described the chores which somehow became a "delusion" when the press corps got mad at Bill Clinton. Everyone--everyone--knew Kelly was lying. But no one stood up and explained what was happening as Gore was trashed for being "delusional" in the bald-faced start to the twenty-month war which eventually put George Bush in the White House. Let's say it again: A different tone obtained in March 1999, in the wake of the Clinton impeachment. The press corps had its shorts in a knot because Wild Bill had got those ten blow jobs. And they quickly took it out on Clinton’s VP--through lying, like that of Michael Kelly. The war began with Gore's farm chores--and extended right through the election.
So that's why you're reading about the fact that John Roberts was a steel-drivin' man. In fact, everything you now lament resulted from that War Against Gore--the war that began with Kelly's blatant dissembling about Gore's work on the farm. Why did Bush get the chance to go into Iraq? Because of the press corps' War Against Gore. Why was Bush there to nominate Roberts? Because of the press corps' War Against Gore. And why are we reading about Karl Rove? Because folks like Dionne didn't say squat when Kelly played the nation for fools, right on their own op-ed pages! Today, we're reading about King Karl because of that twenty-month War Against Gore. Rove, the Boy Genius, couldn't have won without the lies of Michael Kelly.

This is an important Howler so pay attention to the excerpt (we'll note today's Howler again tonight).

Gina e-mails to note Margaret Kimberley's "Questions for the NAACP" (The Black Commentator):

There were two big stories coming from the recent NAACP annual convention. The first was that George W. Bush didn’t accept an invitation to appear. He made up for it by attending the Indiana Black Expo and getting plenty of good photo ops with brown faces. Bush sent Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman to the NAACP convention in his stead. Mehlman wept crocodile tears and swore that his party really, really wants our votes and is sorry for being mean in the past.
The other big news was the installation of a new NAACP president, Bruce Gordon. Gordon was a marketing executive at Verizon for many years. Marketing, a fancy word for selling, works by convincing us to buy things. Sometimes marketers sell us things that we really need. That is on a good day. On a bad day they get us to buy junk food and tell us that gas guzzling SUVs are safer when just the opposite is true.
What is Mr. Gordon selling now that he is at the helm of the NAACP? He says that "economic rights" will be the focus of his efforts. If he is talking about economic justice then his voice is a much needed one. Economic justice has been getting a hard way to go in recent years.
The income gap is widening in America. The wealthy are getting much wealthier and the rest of us are holding our own, if we are lucky. Those of us who aren't are in bigger trouble now than ever before. Congress passed a bankruptcy law that was written by credit card companies. Lo and behold, the new legislation benefits them quite a lot and us not at all. Big business decides that we need tort reform, a dubious conclusion to begin with, and then proceeds to write the legislation that they have been dreaming about for years.
Where does Mr. Gordon stand on these issues? What does he think of the effort to overhaul, that is to say decimate, Social Security? Social Security is the only safety net that Americans have. It is the retirement plan that black Americans depend on more than any other. Now that the guaranteed benefit pension system is both less common and on shakier ground than ever, Social Security is even more important.

We'll also note Bruce Dixon's "Mass Incarceration is an Abomination" (The Black Commentator):

"A great force of suffering accumulated between the basement of heaven and the roof of hell..."
Zora Neale Hurston wrote those words almost seventy years ago at the beginning of her great allegorical work on black America, Moses, Man of the Mountain. She could have been speaking about African America today. As black activists ponder how best to build a mass movement to transform America, a mass movement that must start in but not be confined to our communities, one single low-hanging fruit of organizing opportunity is hard to miss. That opportunity lies in the manifest unfairness and hypocrisy of America's system of racially selective policing, prosecution and mass imprisonment. These awful public policies are inviting targets for electoral and other mobilizations in black communities and beyond.
The fact that America does implement a public policy of racially selective mass imprisonment is well documented and beyond dispute. With under 5 percent of the world’s people, the US accounts for 25 percent of the planet’s prisoners. More than half its 2.2 million prisoners come from the one eighth of its population which is black. Today, an astounding 3 percent of all African Americans languish in prisons and jails, and nearly as many more are on probation, parole, bail, house arrest or court supervision. Tens of thousands of jobless, skill-less, often anti-socialized inmates are released into black communities each month in which jobs, medical care, educational opportunities and family or official support are almost completely absent. Unsurprisingly, many are back behind the walls in a matter of months. Right now, the shadow of prison squats at the corners of, and often at the center of nearly every black family’s life in this nation.
Since 1970, the US prison population has multiplied more than six times. The explosive growth of America's incarceration and crime control industries have occurred despite essentially level crime rates over the last four decades. This has only been possible because the public policies which enable and support locking up more people longer and for less have until now been exempt from analyses of their human, economic and social costs or any reckoning of the relationships of spiraling imprisonment to actual crime rates or public safety. Most tellingly, while public discussions of these policies are deracialized, their racially disparate impacts are a seldom discussed but widely known fact. Thus even though the damning numbers are widely reported and well known, mass incarceration is practically invisible as a political issue, even in those heavily black communities which suffer most from its implementation.

Tina's e-mailed to note that it is Elizabeth Holtzman who will be on The Randi Rhodes Show this afternoon. (Tina notes that Randi did a funny bit on Scooter Scoots Libby and that's probably where she ended up getting "Libby" from). This should be a very interesting segment and if you haven't read Holtzman's article (from The Nation) "Torture and Accountability:"

No less a figure than Alberto Gonzales, then-White House counsel to George W. Bush and now US Attorney General, expressed deep concern about possible prosecutions under the War Crimes Act of 1996 for American mistreatment of Afghanistan war detainees.
This relatively obscure statute makes it a federal crime to violate certain provisions of the Geneva Conventions. The Act punishes any US national, military or civilian, who commits a "grave breach" of the Geneva Conventions. A grave breach, as defined by the Geneva Conventions, includes the deliberate "killing, torture or inhuman treatment" of detainees. Violations of the War Crimes Act that result in death carry the death penalty.
In a memo to President Bush, dated January 25, 2002, Gonzales urged that the United States opt out of the Geneva Conventions for the Afghanistan war--despite Secretary of State Colin Powell's objections. One of the two reasons he gave the President was that opting out "substantially reduces the likelihood of prosecution under the War Crimes Act."
Then-Attorney General Ashcroft sent a memo to President Bush making a similar argument. Opting out of the Geneva Conventions, Ashcroft argued, would give the "highest assurance" that there would be no prosecutions under the War Crimes Act of "military officers, intelligence officials, or law enforcement officials" for their misconduct during interrogations or detention.
Plainly, both Gonzales and Ashcroft were so concerned about preventing War Crimes Act prosecutions that they were willing to assume the risks--including the likelihood of severe international criticism as well as the exposure of our own captured troops to mistreatment--of opting out of Geneva.
The specter of prosecution was particularly worrisome because the Conventions use broad terminology. Noting that violations may consist of "outrages upon personal dignity" and "inhuman treatment," Gonzales advised the President in his memo that it would be "difficult to predict with confidence" which actions would violate the War Crimes Act and which would not.
Moreover, Gonzales opined, it was "difficult to predict the motives of prosecutors and independent counsels" acting in the future. (The "future" could be a very long time indeed, because there would be no statute of limitations on War Crimes Act prosecutions in cases where the victim died.)

As noted this morning, Holtzman discussed the article in an interview with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on Democracy Now! Here's an excerpt from "Fmr. NY Congressmember Holtzman Calls For President Bush and His Senior Staff To Be Held Accountable for Abu Ghraib Torture:"

JUAN GONZALEZ: This 1996 law is not very well known.
ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: No. It's totally obscure. I only found out about it because Alberto Gonzales was worried about prosecutions of high level officials under it.
JUAN GONZALEZ: What brought this law about? In other words, was Congress reacting to --
ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: What happened was in the 1990s, during the, I guess it was the Clinton administration at that time, Congress decided that it wanted to adopt laws to take it into full compliance with its obligations under an international torture statute and an international torture treaty and the Geneva Conventions. And so, it passed two laws. One is a statute making it a U.S. crime to engage in torture. It was passed two years before the 1996 law, and then you have the War Crimes Act of 1996.
And basically, what it does, it makes grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions a federal crime. Got it? Just like kidnapping or interstate burglary or child pornography, it is a federal crime. And the other thing, that's interesting is that it carries the death penalty. If death results from torture or inhuman treatment, then there is a death penalty, and that means there's no statute of limitations. That means that if any high level official violates the War Crimes Act, and somebody died, they can be prosecuted. They are subject to prosecution for the rest of their lives.
AMY GOODMAN: So what did Gonzales do about President Bush?
ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: What Gonzales did to President Bush, he said, ‘Mr. President, we have got to worry about prosecutions under this statute, and what we can do is we can reduce the possibility of prosecutions by opting out of the Geneva Conventions.’ And guess what. The President opted out of the Geneva Conventions. He followed the advice of Gonzales. And by the way, the same advice was given by Attorney General Ashcroft in a memo to the President, as well, saying that he wanted to make sure that law enforcement officials, intelligence officials and others were not prosecuted under the War Crimes Act. So, here we have two high level U.S. government officials warning President Bush that the War Crimes Act, a U.S. statute, could make high level American officials criminally liable, if they -- unless they opted out of the Geneva Conventions.

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[Note: This is a repost. Once again, an e-mailed post has disappeared. I have no idea why.]