Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Democracy Now: perspective & analysis on Roberts; Bob Somerby, Christine (Ms. Musing), Anne (Peevish), Lizz Brown, Molly Ivins, Delilah ...

Women to Lose Rights in 'New' Iraq
Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting that a draft of Iraq's new constitution would greatly curtail women's rights, imposing the Sharia or Koranic law in personal matters like marriage, divorce and inheritance. It also would limit their representation in parliament. The draft would guarantee legal rights for women, as long as they do not "violate Sharia," meaning that Shiite women could not marry without their family's permission and that husbands could divorce them simply by saying so out loud three times. The draft would also drop or phase out a measure included in the interim constitution requiring that women make up at least 25 percent of the parliament. The constitution is set to be finalized by mid-August.
British Soldiers Charged With War Crimes
Three British soldiers have been charged with war crimes for the alleged abuse of Iraqi detainees in the first case of its kind in Britain. The British Attorney General's office said the men were the first British soldiers to be charged under the International Criminal Court Act 2001. But, a spokesperson for the attorney general said the three soldiers charged with war crimes would be tried in Britain, not before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Eight other British soldiers, including a former colonel, face military tribunals in connection with the alleged abuse of Iraqi detainees. But they were charged under British law.
The two items are above from the Headlines sections of Democracy Now! today and were chosen by Jill and ToriDemocracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):
Headlines for July 20, 2005

- Bush Picks Abortion Opponent for Supreme Court
- Another Suicide Bombing in Baghdad
- Sunni Members of Iraq Constitutional Committee Gunned Down
- Women to Lose Rights in 'New' Iraq
- New Study Says 24,000 Iraqi Civilians Killed
- Did Rove Mislead the FBI on CIA Leak?
- Calls for Cheney to Be Investigated for Leaks
Bush Taps Conservative Appeals Court Judge John Roberts For Supreme Court

President Bush has chosen appeals court judge John Roberts as his first nominee to the Supreme Court. Roberts is 50 years old and a solidly conservative Republican who has served in the administrations of George HW Bush and Ronald Reagan. For years, he worked as a top corporate attorney before being appointed in 2003 to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, which is widely considered the nation's second-highest court. We host a roundtable discussion with Nancy Northup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Gary Marx of the Judicial Confirmation Network, Ralph Neas of People for the American Way, Jamin Raskin, author of "Overruling Democracy" and Art Eisenberg of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
At The Daily Howler, Bob Somerby is tackling many issues.  First off he's addressing the John Roberts' coverage:
JOHN ROBERTS WAS BORN IN A SMALL TOWN: After the inane speculation, we move ahead to the character studies. In today’s Post, Jeffrey Smith nails down the inner John Roberts:
SMITH (7/20/05): Roberts then excelled at Harvard Law School, becoming managing editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, where he was known as something of a straight arrow. David W. Leebron, who is the president of Rice University and was the editor of the review at the time, recalls that after working late they would often stop for ice cream. Roberts always chose the same flavor: chocolate chip. "I'm the type of person who wants to try other things, but he makes his choices and gets comfortable with them," Leebron said.
Huh! Of course, that's the Post's bowderlized, on-line edition. In our hard-copy edition, Smith was a bit more frank; the flavor was "vanilla chocolate chip."

Over at the Times, meanwhile, Elisabeth Bumiller is safely on-message concerning the nominee's humble, red origins. In paragraph 4, she gets out the word--John Roberts was raised in a small town:

BUMILLER (7/20/05): The president and Judge Roberts spoke in the sitting room of the White House residence for an hour on Thursday, Mr. Bartlett said, and the president asked him a number of personal questions about his upbringing in small-town Indiana. Mr. Bartlett would not say if the two talked about Judge Roberts's positions on abortion and other divisive issues before the court.
In the Post, though, Smith spills some extra beans about John Roberts' small town:
SMITH: Roberts was born in Buffalo and grew up in Long Beach, Ind., an affluent beachside town on Lake Michigan. The son of a Bethlehem Steel executive, he graduated first in his high school class and in 1973 went to Harvard University...
Not that's there's anything wrong with it--although the statement about that beachside affluence is gone in the Post's on-line edition. By the way--according to the Times' Neil Lewis, Roberts' high school was "the La Lumiere School, a small, nominally Catholic boys' boarding school in La Porte, Ind."

Silly silly silly silly! In our modern discourse, framing is all--and some helpful scribes will hammer the frame. In the Times, though, Lewis tattles. Lewis rats out the whole process:

LEWIS (7/20/05): John Glover Roberts was born in Buffalo and grew up in Indiana, the son of an executive for the Bethlehem Steel Company and a homemaker. When Mr. Bush presented Judge Roberts in the Cross Hall 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.


Somerby's also critiquing Campbell Brown's grip on the facts re: Joe Wilson and critiquing the written commentary by a pundit re: the Plame outing.
Natalie e-mails to note Christine's "The Supreme Court Could Do Without So Much Niceness" (Ms. Musing).  Here's an excerpt:

Judge John G. Roberts, Jr. is smart. Brilliant, even. And nice. A real family man who's kind to his associates. According to our president, "he has a good heart."

Well, I'm all for nice, smart guys with good hearts, but what I'm really interested in is whether they play fair.

And to that end I'm not as excited about Roberts as most pundits seem to think I should be. Flipping through the channels Tuesday night following President Bush's speech introducing Roberts, I was struck by the number of times I heard Roberts was sure to be confirmed easily because he's so well-respected. And did I mention smart?

Conservative television guests, like Barbara Comstock of Progress for America, parroted the president in talking about the "70 senators" Bush consulted before making his choice. I don't care if he polled every staff person on Capitol Hill -- Roberts is not the consensus candidate many of us were hoping for.

But you wouldn't know that from watching TV, where the narrative was clearly set: Democrats and liberal groups aren't protesting that loudly, so it's really all OK.

Except it's not. FMF President Ellie Smeal definitely doesn't think Roberts should sail through the confirmation hearings. Nor do other women's groups concerned with reproductive rights. Read statements from NOW, NARAL Pro-Choice America and the National Abortion Federation, and you'll see why Roberts isn't such an attractive choice.

Or check this report (pdf) on Roberts prepared by People for the American Way. There's information on a host of topics, from reproductive freedom and religious liberty to free speech and federalism. Here's the bit on Roe v. Wade that's got everybody wondering what Roberts really thinks:

In 1990, for example, Roberts, then Deputy Solicitor General, co-authored a brief for the government in Rust v. Sullivan, 500 U.S. 173 (1991). Rust concerned the so-called "gag rule" that prohibited federally funded family planning clinics from discussing the option of abortion with patients, and did not directly concern the validity of Roe itself. Nonetheless, Roberts argued that "[w]e continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled ... [T]he Court's conclusion[] in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion ... find[s] no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution."

Those may not be Roberts' personal views, but shouldn't we have a clue? There are a lot of important cases coming up before the Supreme Court. It would be nice to know where we stand, before, say, contraception is sold only on the black market.

"Was it his role to carry out policy or did he help make that policy -- that's a reasonable question," Elliot Mincberg, vice president of People for the American Way, said on MSNBC, referring to Roberts' court brief in Rust v. Sullivan.


Krista e-mails to note a call to action from CODEPINK:

Help CODEPINK Air Downing Street Memo Radio Ads on Right-Wing Radio!
Starting on July 23, CODEPINK will begin a campaign to hit the right-wing airwaves with a radio spot recorded by Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in the Iraq war. The ad will give millions of conservatives radio listeners a dose of reality; it talks about the contents of The Downing Street Memo, which could provide the grounds for impeachment of George Bush, and urges listeners to call on their representatives to investigate and hold Bush accountable. Please help us raise $25,000 so we can begin running these ads and push the impeachment issue to the next level!  

Annie e-mails to note Delilah's "Bait & Switch" at A Scrivener's Lament:

All day yesterday, your pResident and his flying monkeys fed the national media a bunch of bologna, which they passed on to you via the airwaves and future fish wrap.

"It's an Edith!" they proclaimed, still believing that their White House sources don't lie to them.

The two Ediths, however, found out by lunchtime that they were being served to you as portions of red herring.

John Roberts, corporate attorney, has 20 whole months of bench experience; however, his Republican party resume reads like a demon's list...

Roberts clerked for Rehnquist.

Roberts was Kenneth Starr's deputy.

Roberts was a major player in the 2000 Florida fiasco.

Roberts is a Federalist Society member.

Roberts argued against Gulf War I veterans sticking it to Saddam.

Roberts was one of Reagan's lawyers.

Roberts believes that Roe v Wade was the wrong decision.

Roberts is the wrong white, Catholic man for today's Supreme Court.



Martha e-mails to note Molly Ivin's latest column "When News Isn't News:"

I hope this is not too Inside Baseball for you, but I am truly hacked with what the bloggers call the MSM, or “mainstream media.” The New York Times and The Washington Post have both gone way out of their way to deny that the Downing Street Memos (it’s now plural) are news.

Let me tell you something. Like many of you, during the entire lead-up to the war with Iraq, I thought the whole thing was a terrible idea. I bring this up not to prove how smart we are, but to emphasize that I followed the debate closely and probably unconsciously searched for evidence that reinforced what I already thought. I read not only the American press but the European press as well. I think I read most of the leftwing publications in this country, as well as a good number on the right, and I read the Times, the Post, The Wall Street Journal, and several Texas papers every day. It’s my job. This is what I do for a living--try to stay well informed.

When I read the first Downing Street Memo, my eyes bugged out and my jaw fell open. It was news to me, and as I have tried to indicate, I’m no slouch at keeping up. I had to write a column that day, and there was no way I could let that pass without at least pointing out what it said.

Here are the aggravating factors. Tom Friedman, columnist for The New York Times, recently wrote that “liberals” no longer want to talk about the war because we were against it to start with and probably hope it ends in disaster. Jesus God Almighty, who does he think we are? Does this man who has a column for The New York Times, one of the most prestigious jobs in American journalism, actually think we are out here cheering every time another American is killed? Mr. Friedman, real, actual, honest-to-God American liberals are out here in the heartland and we know the kids who are dying in Iraq. They are from our hometowns. We know their parents. That’s why we hate this war. That’s why we tried to tell everybody else it was a ghastly idea.

Gloria e-mails to note Anne's "Death and Taxes" (Peevish . . . I'm Just Saying):

I'd like to suggest that 9/11 did not "change everything." I know we've been told it did, over and over, but I've never believed it and I've decided it's time to share that belief with you.

Terrorists have been striking targets around the world for a long time now. We've had terrorist attacks on our soil in the recent past. The idea that this attack "changed everything" and that suddenly terrorist attacks were a bigger problem than they had been on 9/10/2001, is just part of the Bush Administration's propaganda campaign, the one they launched to help them get their way on attacking Iraq.

The entire irrelevance of the Bush Administration's "war on terror" to any actual terrorism, or to making any USofA citizen safer is fairly clear.

On the other hand, our reaction to 9/11 changed a lot of things...although not in a way I find appropriate.

Billie e-mails to note Lizz Brown's "'Strange Fruit' in Iraq: Journalist Who Probed Torture and Executions is Murdered" (The Black Commentator):

Yasser Salihee is dead.

He was on his way to drive his family to a swimming pool in western Baghdad when he was struck by a single bullet to head -- he died instantly.

Some say he was an unintentional casualty of war. Some whisper "the wolves got him."

You see, since May, Dr. Salihee, had been reporting on the similarities between the death squads used in El Salvador to obliterate their "insurgency" and the US military's creation of the "Wolf Brigade" that has been unleashed to eliminate the Iraqi "insurgency." Our government calls it Operation Lightening.

To be clear, there is no shame in the game of the US military -- they make no secret that the Wolf Brigade is modeled after the death squads in El Salvador. In fact, up until April 2005, the main advisor to the Wolf Brigade was a man named James Steele.

According to New York Times Magazine, Jim Steele was in charge of a team of 55 Special Forces advisers in El Salvador who "trained front-line battalions that were accused of significant human rights abuses." In fact while Jim Steele was in charge, "whole villages were targeted by the armed forces and their inhabitants massacred."

When battered and methodically beaten dead bodies started showing up in Iraq, Dr Salihee started reporting. Dr Salihee wrote about bodies in the morgue with their hands tied or handcuffed behind their backs. Bodies with their eyes blindfolded appearing to have been tortured, whipped with cords and subjected to electric shocks. Bodies beaten with blunt objects and shot to death, often with a single bullet. Bodies found in mass graves and bodies floating in rivers.

Dr Salihee also reported that many of the members of the Wolf Brigade came from Saddam Hussein’s Special Forces and Republican Guards. Indeed, these men were decorated veterans of homicide, genocide and torture.

Liang e-mails to note Trish Schuh's "Dispatch from Karbala" (Guerrilla News Network):

Being in country for nine months, Major Jack Helmers was asked why the Americans invaded Iraq. “There are many reasons,” he said, “but mostly Saddam himself was a weapon of mass destruction. He killed Kurds and Shiites. He was working on other WMDs. We may still find them.” He added that part of the 155th’s mission was “explosive ordnance disposal.”

Experts claim one WMD, depleted uranium, is easy to find. But American authorities have refused to clean it up or acknowledge its harmful effects. Conventional weapons also posed a danger. In the past, live munitions were piled along streets unmarked, due to a shortage of yellow plastic ‘caution’ tape. Major Booth reassured us; “Alot of the explosives are fairly stable- though some devices can explode with weather or temperature changes.” Pedestrians casting a shadow over an undetonated object could also cause it to explode.

On a visit later to the Karbala office of Iraqi Human Rights Watch, Hussein Al Abrahemy placed a cluster bomb on his desk. He claimed citizens had unsuccessfully requested many times that the US military retrieve the WMDs. Daisy cutters, in addition to cluster bombs, were still being found throughout the city.

Children thought the yellow devices were toys. So on April 3, 2005, a committee headed by Ali Hamza of the Muslim Peacemakers Team finally decided to dispose of the ordnance themselves. Attempting to clear a school yard of explosives, Hamza was killed. The Army promised compensation, but the family has received nothing. Responding to American inaction, the Community of Victims’ Kin was founded, demanding that 5% of Iraq’s oil revenue be allotted to war victims’ families.

Julia e-mails to note Laura Rozen's "The Big Chill" (The Nation) where Rozen looks at the Larry Franklin/AIPAC investigation:

While the Franklin/AIPAC investigation is often described as a counterintelligence case, it too is really about government leaks, and the Bush Administration's determination to plug them. On September 9, 2001, the New York Times published a story by then-State Department correspondent Jane Perlez, who reported a major shift in what had been the Bush Administration's rejection of the Clinton Administration's deep engagement in trying to broker a peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. Perlez reported that after months of refusing to meet with Yasir Arafat, George W. Bush would grant the Palestinian leader his first audience with the new US President at an upcoming UN General Assembly gathering in New York "if progress were made in high-level talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis."

That meeting between Bush and Arafat never happened. Two days after the Times story appeared, Al Qaeda terrorists crashed planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing almost 3,000 people. In the aftermath of those attacks, few people recalled that for a brief moment in the late summer of 2001, the Bush Administration had considered meeting with Arafat and deepening its political involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Everyone forgot, except the FBI. According to a recent report by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, it was that September 2001 news article, based on leaks of sensitive Administration deliberations, that prompted then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to demand an FBI leak investigation that has since taken on a dramatic life of its own. Most recently, the investigation has led to the federal grand jury indictment, unsealed last month, of Pentagon Iran desk officer Larry Franklin on charges involving conspiracy to disclose classified national defense information to unauthorized recipients. It is expected to lead to indictments, under the Espionage Act, of two recently dismissed employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for engaging in a conspiracy to receive and pass on to other unauthorized recipients what they knew to be classified information. They are AIPAC's former director of foreign policy research, Steve Rosen, and his deputy, Iran specialist Keith Weissman. Among those the FBI reportedly wants to interview as a potential witness in its investigation is a Washington Post journalist who was allegedly briefed on some of the classified information by the former AIPAC officials--information those officials had allegedly received from Franklin in an FBI-arranged sting. In addition, Franklin, Rosen and Weissman are all alleged to have relayed classified national defense information to an Israeli Embassy official. It is this latter connection that has raised talk of espionage.

The e-mail address for this site is


Start your day with Yahoo! - make it your home page