Friday, July 29, 2005

Democracy Now: Jesse Jackson, Ralph Neas, Lori Wallach; Bob Somerby, Matthew Rothschild, BuzzFlash, Margaret Kimberley, CODEPINK, Norman Solomon

Judge Blasts Bush Policies: We Don’t Need a 'Secret Military Tribunal'
This week, a US District Court Judge in Seattle sentenced Algerian Ahmed Ressam to 22 years in prison. Ressam was convicted of bringing bomb making materials across the Canadian border in December 1999 in an alleged plot to attack the Los Angeles International Airport. The Judge, John Coughenour, who was a Reagan appointee, used Ressam's sentencing as an opportunity to speak out against Bush administration policies. The Judge said, "We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant or deny the defendant the right to counsel." He continued, "The message to the world from today's sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart." He added that September 11th made Americans realize they are vulnerable to terrorism and that some believe "this threat renders our Constitution obsolete ... If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won," the judge said.
War Resister Benderman Sentenced to 15 Months
A US Army mechanic who refused to go to Iraq while he sought conscientious objector status was acquitted yesterday of desertion but found guilty of a lesser charge during his court-martial. Sgt. Kevin Benderman was sentenced to 15 months in prison on the charge of missing movement. He also was given a dishonorable discharge from the military and a reduction in rank to private. If he had been found guilty of desertion, he could have faced five years in prison. Still, his sentence appears to be the harshest yet given to an Iraq war resister.
Israel Building New Barrier to Surround Gaza
The Israeli army revealed yesterday that it is increasing its military and security system near the Gaza Strip in anticipation of next month's so-called withdrawal. The army describes a high-tech complex to ring the coastal strip with what Israel hopes will be the world's most impenetrable barrier. The barrier system will surround Gaza with fences, electronic sensors; watchtowers mounted with remote-control machine guns, and hundreds of video and night vision cameras. The Israeli military says that the plan includes new army bases and 22-foot concrete walls around nearby Israeli settlements. Watchtowers armed with remote-controlled machine guns are to be built every 1.2 miles and within a year, remote-controlled, unmanned vehicles will begin patrolling the area. The barrier will run about 35 miles and will cost about $220 million. Israel says it will be completed by mid-2006.
The three items above are from Democracy Now!'s Headlines and were selected by Alabama, West and Kara.  Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says)
Headlines for July 29, 2005

- Marines Killed In Iraq
- IRA Ends 30-Year Armed Campaign
- Israel Building New Barrier to Surround Gaza
- War Resister Benderman Sentenced to 15 Months
- Bill Frist Breaking With Bush on Stem Cell Research
- GAO Report Says US Diverting Iraq Humanitarian Funds for Security
- State Department Admits Bolton Didn’t Disclose CIA Interview
Roberts' Record on Civil Rights Enters Battle Over Supreme Court Nomination

In the ongoing controversy over the Supreme Court nomination of John Roberts, questions are being raised over Roberts’ role in the civil rights debates of the 1980s. During his tenure as Deputy Assistant General under Reagan, Roberts advocated a narrow interpretation of a variety of civil rights laws, and presented a defense of congressional efforts to strip the Supreme Court of jurisdiction over busing, abortion and school prayer cases. We speak with Ralph Neas of People for the American Way and Reverend Jesse Jackson.
Irish Republican Army Announces End to Violence

The Irish Republican Army Thursday called for all of its volunteers to disarm, effectively ending a 36-year guerilla campaign against the British government. We’ll look at whether this move will really change the fate of Northern Ireland.
CAFTA Voting Irregularities

After Congress passes CAFTA by one vote in a midnight count, questions are being raised about the process. We speak with the Director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch about the GOP leaders' round-up of House votes to approve trade agreement.
At The Daily Howler, Bob Somerby is addressing issues including Al Gore and Pat Roberts.  We'll note the top of the piece which will probably get the most attention anyway:
PROFILE OF A WEAK REQUEST: At the risk of provoking fury from liberal readers, the most interesting Thursday post we saw was this one, by the estimable David Corn. An edited version of the piece appears at the site of The Nation.

Overview: In his piece, David discusses Bob Novak's fateful decision to report the fact that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. More specifically, David discusses Novak's call to the CIA to confirm what he'd heard about Plame. Novak described this conversation in an October 2003 op-ed column--and just this Wednesday, the Post's Walter Pincus added a new perspective. Pincus had interviewed Bill Harlow, the CIA spokesman with whom Novak spoke. In the Post, Pincus gave Harlow’s version of his conversation with Novak.

In short, we now have accounts from both Novak and Harlow. In his piece, David is struck by the "contradictions" between the two accounts, and he says that Harlow’s account shoots down Novak's excuse for publishing. At the risk of provoking fury, we have to say we disagree on both counts.

First, the alleged contradictions. David quotes Novak's account of his exchange with Harlow, from his October 03 column:

NOVAK (10/1/03): At the CIA, the official designated to talk to me denied that Wilson's wife had inspired his selection [for the trip to Niger] but said she was delegated to request his help. He asked me not to use her name, saying she probably never again will be given a foreign assignment but that exposure of her name might cause "difficulties" if she travels abroad. He never suggested to me that Wilson's wife or anybody else would be endangered. If he had, I would not have used her name. I used it in the sixth paragraph of my column because it looked like the missing explanation of an otherwise incredible choice by the CIA for its mission.
That was Novak's account of what happened when he called the CIA. Next, David produced Harlow's account, as laid out this Wednesday by Pincus:
PINCUS (7/27/05): Harlow, the former CIA spokesman, said in an interview yesterday that he testified last year before a grand jury about conversations he had with Novak at least three days before the column was published. He said he warned Novak, in the strongest terms he was permitted to use without revealing classified information, that Wilson's wife had not authorized the mission [to Niger] and that if he did write about it, her name should not be revealed.

Harlow said that after Novak's call, he checked Plame's status and confirmed that she was an undercover operative. He said he called Novak back to repeat that the story Novak had related to him was wrong and that Plame's name should not be used. But he did not tell Novak directly that she was undercover because that was classified.

"So how many contradictions can you find?" David asks. Our answer: As a matter of fact, we can't find any. In fact, given the emotion surrounding this matter, we think it's amazing that these two men's accounts are so similar.
There's a lot to read so consider clicking here and reading today's Howler in full.
Wally e-mails to note the always worth reading Matthew Rothschild and his latest "Fifteen Democrats Cave on CAFTA:"

The Democrats just can’t hold the line.

Nowhere was this clearer than on the CAFTA vote that passed the House in the wee hours of the night by a mere two-vote margin, 217 to 215.

Democrats gave Bush this victory, and workers and the environment this defeat, here and in Central America.

You see, 15 Democrat sided with Bush and multinational corporations by voting for CAFTA (see list below). If only two of those Democrats had voted with their party, CAFTA would be dead.

But now, already having passed the Senate with 10 Democratic votes, it will wreak its havoc for years to come, devastating the livelihoods of millions of people in Central America, further hollowing out the job market in the United States, and placing environmental safeguards at the mercy of corporations.

For those who were wondering why The Black Commentator wasn't mentioned yesterday, the site hadn't changed before the entry here was completed.  They're on a summer break until September 1st.  While they're on vacation, you can search the site and find things you may have missed earlier or articles you read and enjoyed before but want to savor again.  On the home page they have a "Best of Our Guest Commentators" which is easy to access and will provide enjoyable and educational readings.

We'll also note "The Best of Freedom Rider," Margaret Kimberley's purpose and value is clearly stated as the editors of The Black Commentator assemble a collage of some Kimerberley's many strong columns:

Margaret Kimberley is a woman of the people. She speaks for the people, and is not encumbered by corporate constraints.  Her weekly column on BC is the best-read item on our menu. We are honored that she writes for us, and writes so well.

She also speaks truth to power, and to the powerless, and to those who purport to speak for the powerless -- the false leadership that is subsidized by outside forces.

False leadership comes in various flavors. Sometimes it is licorice, simulating Black. It stains your tongue, but doesn’t tell the truth.

Margaret Kimberley’s weekly columns hit hard – like they’re supposed to do. In the Blackest major city in the nation, Detroit, misguided politicians tried to set aside a few square blocks for Africa Town.  This is crazy. Most of Detroit is “Africa Town.”  The whole city should be developed to serve African Americans. Ms. Kimberley said so, on October 7, 2004:

”Detroit’s population is 80% black. In theory, the entire city should be a boom town for black people. If a majority black population and black political leadership can’t provide economic development for Detroit, then the African Town discussion is a waste of time and energy that might be better spent developing a real plan for that city.”

We must speak the truth, especially to our own people. Halfway measures don’t get us the whole way to freedom and prosperity. And half-ass politics gets us nowhere. Margaret Kimberly spares no one, in the search of truth. Certainly, the Democratic Party, to which Blacks have been wedded for generations, is an actor in the racist game. Senator John Kerry conceded, in the face of massive voting fraud in Ohio, Florida, and many other states, almost before the sun came up on the day after the election. He was complicit in the crime, as Ms. Kimberley wrote on November 11, 2004:

”The same politicians who looked over the Democratic field and decided that Senator Empty Suit was going to be the savior of the party are now blaming gay marriage for the loss. They have said nothing about electronic voting irregularities in Ohio and Florida that disenfranchised their most loyal voters. They have said nothing about the system of electoral racial separation that condemns black voters to use punch card ‘hanging chad’ machines and provisional ballots that aren’t counted.”


Tara e-mails to note Norman Solomon's "In Praise of Kevin Benderman" (CounterPunch): 

Conscience is not in the chain of command.

"Before being sentenced to 15 months for refusing to return to Iraq with his Army unit, Sgt. Kevin Benderman told a military judge that he acted with his conscience, not out of a disregard for duty," the Associated Press reports. Benderman, a 40-year-old Army mechanic, "refused to go on a second combat tour in January, saying the destruction and misery he witnessed during the 2003 Iraq invasion had turned him against war."

Three weeks ago, his wife Monica Benderman wrote:

"He returned knowing that war is wrong, the most dehumanizing creation of humanity that exists. He saw war destroy civilians, innocent men, women and children. He saw war destroy homes, relationships and a country. He saw this not only in the country that was invaded, but he saw this happening to the invading country as well -- and he knew that the only way to save those soldiers was for people to no longer participate in war. Sgt. Kevin Benderman is a Conscientious Objector to war, and the Army is mad."

On Thursday, at his court-martial, Kevin Benderman spoke. "Though some might take my actions as being against soldiers, I want everyone to be home and safe and raising their families," he said. "I don't want anyone to be hurt in a combat zone."

But the Pentagon is imposing its power to enforce the unconscionable. And words that were written by Monica Benderman in early July are now even more true: "The Army has removed itself so completely from its moral responsibility, that its representatives are willing to openly demand, in a court of law, that they be allowed to regain 'positive control over this soldier' by finding him guilty of crimes he did not commit, and put him in jail -- a prisoner of conscience, for daring to obey a moral law."

And, she added: "It is 'hard work' to face the truth, and it is scary when people who are not afraid to face it begin to speak out. Someone once said that my husband's case is a question of morality over legality. I pray that this country has not gone so far over the edge that the two are so distinctly different that we can tell them apart."

Eli e-mails to note the ACLU's Reform the Patriot Act blog and specifically the entry "Overheard in Oversight Hearing:"


Just yesterday, the FBI testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the failures in their process for hiring translators to translate foreign intelligence, and made a pitch for administrative subpoenas. In June the Senate Intelligence Committee had a secret meeting to report out a bill that would give the FBI this power -- the power to write its own search orders for "any tangible thing" without getting any court approval in advance and without proving to any court that there are any facts connecting the records sought to an agent of a foreign power.

The FBI has wanted this kind of power for so long that people who have worked on this issue longer than me actually have mimeographed copies of such proposals from decades ago (this was practically before the copy machine, if you can even imagine that). But Congress after Congress has wisely rejected such requests which would completely undermine our Fourth Amendment.

The FBI says that businesses would be able to challenge those subpoenas after the fact but this is slim protection -- do people really believe that the credit bureau or their credit card company is going to go to the legal expense of fighting for their privacy if the FBI goes on a fishing expeditions with their customer files. One can always hope, but the FBI subpoena would be secret forever and you would probably never know if your records were turned over to the FBI.

On a related note, in the House Judiciary Committee two weeks ago, Congressman Scott of Virginia proposed that businesses successfully challenging a Section 215 court order would get their attorney fees paid, but that too was defeated on a party-line vote. If the FBI were given the power to write its own orders for such records without any court approval, Section 215 will be phased out because: Why would they ever go to court to get an order if they can just get the same thing themselves?

Now we go to Kara,  with breaking news and awards coverage.

Kara:  Thank you, C.I.  As many know BuzzFlash has announced their latest GOP Hypocrite of the Week winner, Pat Roberts the Senator from the state of deranged.  And quite honestly, there's talk that this week's awards won't be televised.  A problem has been the ratings. And ad agencies are complaining about ad buys.  They argue that the winners are all too ... I believe the technical term is "butt ugly," to pull in large audiences.  There's also talk that some past winners have frightened small children when their faces loomed on the screen.  BuzzFlash's is going after truth and the networks, as always want glitz.

C.I.: Kara, with the attacks on the left, is there any talk that any of this may result from a mainstream media that's titled right?

Kara: While that is surely a possibility, the fact remains that the winners of the GOP Hypocrite of the Week are in deed butt ugly.  On the face of it, they are butt ugly.

C.I.: Interesting.  And the current winner, Pat Roberts?

Kara: Let's just say he's no dream date.  He looks like Karl Rove's skinny brother.

C.I.: Now Kara, did I understand you correctly earlier, Kenneth Tomlinson has interjected himself into the matter?

Kara:  That is correct.  Now the BuzzFlash GOP Hypocrite of the Week is not telecast on any PBS station so many are confused by Tomlinson's latest actions which include giving two million dollars to The Drudge Report to analyze the content and selection process. 

C.I.: And did he get approval from the CPI Board for that?

Kara:  Does he ever?  The best anyone can figure out is that Tomlinson's been riding his hog without his helment one too many times or else he's just hard up for ways to garner attention these days.

C.I.: Kara, thank you. 

(Before anyone writes in to ask if Kenneth Tomlinson really gave 2 million dollars to Drudge, the above was a joke.  Thanks to Kara for coming up with the idea and exchanging e-mails this morning that make up the above dialogue. Hopefully it draws further attention to BuzzFlash's GOP Hypocrite of the Week choices.)

Toby e-mails to note CODEPINK:

ONEMILLIONREASONS.ORG: Tell Bush to Get Out of Iraq
Polls show that we now represent the majority -- 6 out of 10 Americans would like the US troops to come home -- people feel isolated from each other and feel their voices are not being heard. So we have created an exciting new campaign called ONEMILLIONREASONS.ORG, where you can post on-line YOUR reason why the US should get out of Iraq, and read what other people all over the world have to say. On September 26 we will hand deliver the signatures and messages directly to the White House.

For those who wrote in to say how much they enjoyed Kat's reviews of Aimee Mann's The Forgotten Arm and Carly Simon's Midnight Serenade (e-mails have been forwarded to Kat and her e-mail address is, we'll note Tony Peyser's "Loudon Wainwright IIIs's 'Here Comes The Choppers!'" (BuzzFlash):

Loudon Wainwright III is on drugs.

I'm not talking pot, cocaine or heroin. I mean the performance-enhancing drugs that professional baseball players have been taking during the last ten years which turned every damn major league game into a home run derby. The most coveted substance was Androstenedione, which is an androgenic steroid. (I don't know what an "androgenic steroid" is and neither do you.) I even believe that Wainwright has stolen so much Androstenedione that needy sluggers like Barry Bonds just can't get any of the damn stuff. (The San Francisco Giant home run king isn't having any knee problems; that's the cover story while he's trying to find a way to get his hands on some of Wainwright's steroids.)

Where's my proof? Well, how else can you explain two sensational albums of new material in the last four years? Wainwright's in his late fifties and this is precisely when a singer-songwriter's quality should skid right off the proverbial rails. He's supposed to be phoning it in with something annoyingly retro like a collection of rockabilly or doo-wop tracks. Or, more likely, a live album of his early songs. (Uh, Wainwright did do So Damn Happy in 2003, which had a lot of his early songs on it. But I'm on a roll here, so forget about that.) Wainwright could even pull a page from the Ry Cooder playbook, find some old world music fellas from a sweaty banana republic and get them onto vinyl before they start dying off like Democratic bills in the GOP-controlled House to provide health care for poor people.


Marcia e-mails to note that Anne's taking on the ex-gay "therapy" at Peevish . . .I'm Just Saying

Today is the day Zach is supposed to be released.

I know it's unreasonable to think his parents will let him use the internet today, or probably in the immediate future, but I really want to know how he's doing.

And if his parents took this time, after they saw the public shit-storm over their actions, to consider whether or not they might be taking the wrong tack. I don't think they did. Based on what I've read in Zach's blog and the interview with his father, they're too set in their religion and too defensive to back down.

Sigh. I'd like to believe they think they're doing what's best, that they made a calm and rational decision to take this step, but Zach's journal entry about his mother "saying the worst things to me for three days straight" until he was considering suicide, even briefly, makes it very difficult for me to believe that.

Tracey (yes, that Ruth's granddaughter) e-mails to note Robert Parry's "Why We Need Investigative Reporting:"

By the mid-1990s, past crimes by the Republicans were off the media's radar scopes as the mainstream press joined the right-wing media in obsessing over trivial "Clinton scandals," such as the firing of White House travel office employees and endless questions about Bill and Hillary Clinton's Whitewater real estate investment.

These stories represented a deformed version of investigative journalism, essentially political attack operations masquerading as investigative journalism. In short, they were a form of political dirty trick.

Faced with the bleak media environment of 1995, we started as a way to publish well-reported stories of true significance, what we considered old-fashioned investigative journalism, albeit in the new medium of the Internet.

Some of our articles were about current events while others pieced together key parts of recent American history. In the broadest sense, our goal was to tell the real story of what happened to the United States since World War II and how that often-secret history helped explain the troubling present.

So, for instance, when five Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the Florida recount in December 2000 and handed George W. Bush the White House, our readers weren't surprised, knowing the history of how ruthlessly Republicans had pursued control of the White House in the past. [See the "October Surprise X-Files" series or Parry's Secrecy & Privilege.]

Our readers weren't surprised either when Colin Powell turned out to be a rank opportunist, as he exploited his sparkling reputation to sell the Bush administration's puffed-up evidence about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction. [For Powell's real background, see the "Behind Colin Powell's Legend" series.]

As the right-wing media bullied Americans who dissented from Bush's pronouncements about Iraq, our readers already recognized the intellectual corruption of a media infrastructure that had long been subsidized by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, writing checks from his mysterious funding sources. [See the "Dark Side of Rev. Moon" series.]

And we'll close by noting, in full, a press release from The Green Party at Third Party's request:

Greens gathering in Tulsa for the national meeting of the Green Party of the United States this past weekend elected new national co-chairs of the party.


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