Monday, August 29, 2005

Democracy Now: Camp Casey, "The Posada Files"; Rothschild, Somerby, Delilah (Scrivener's Lament), Media Matters, Christine (Ms. Musing) ...

Thousands Rally At Camp Casey in Crawford Texas
In Crawford, Texas, the anti-war vigil led by Cindy Sheehan has entered its 24th day outside President Bush's 1,600 acre estate. Over the weekend thousands of military families, veterans and anti-war activists gathered for the final weekend of the vigil. Former U.S. diplomat Ann Wright -- who has been running much of Camp Casey -- is now estimating that up to 10,000 people have visited the camp since the vigil was launched on Aug. 6. This is Iraq War veteran Sean O'Neill: "I know too many good men that died out there who left behind families, widows, children that will grow up without their fathers. And for what?"
Population of Jewish Settlers in West Bank Increases
The Israeli government has revealed that the number of Jewish settlers living in the occupied West Bank has increased this year by 9,000 even though Israel recently evacuated four small West Bank settlements. According to the Israeli interior office, nearly 250,000 Jewish settlers live in the occupied West Bank. Another 200,000 live in East Jerusalem. In southern Israel, 40 people were hospitalized after a Palestinian man blew himself up while boarding a bus. It marked the first suicide attack since the evacuation of settlers from the Gaza Strip. Palestinian militants said the suicide attack was revenge for the recent killing of five Palestinians in the West Bank town of Tulkarem.
89 Detainees Go On Hunger Strike at Guantanamo
At Guantanamo Bay, 89 detainees have resumed a hunger strike to protest against their living conditions and their continued detention without trial. Human rights attorney Clive Stafford Smith warned that many detainees have grown so desperate that they intend to starve themselves to death in an effort to create a public relations disaster for the US military. The hunger strike was sparked by rumors of a violent interrogation session and two rough extractions of detainees from their cells, as well as a new incident of alleged desecration of a copy of the Koran.
The three items above are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by KeShawn, Sabina and West.  Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):
Headlines for August 29, 2005

- Hundreds of Thousands of New Orleans Residents Flee Hurricane
- Officials Fear New Orleans Will Turn Into Toxic Lake
- National Guard Equipment in Iraq, Not Louisiana
- Shiites and Kurds Agree on Constitution; Sunnis Reject Text
- Reuters Sound Technician Killed by U.S. Troops in Iraq
- Pentagon Official Demoted After Criticizing Halliburton Deal
- NYPD Arrest 49 At Critical Mass Bike Ride
Is Global Warming Causing More Devastating Hurricanes Worldwide?

Hurricane Katrina forced a mass evacuation of New Orleans and may leave up to a million people homeless. As this unprecedented storm deluges the South, we look at new evidence that human-induced global warming is causing the increased strength of tropical storms. [includes rush transcript]
Two Thousand Bush Supporters Rally in Crawford

The last weekend of Cindy Sheehan's vigil outside President Bush's property in Crawford drew ever more supporters. Also in Crawford were two thousand counter protesters. We hear from a pro-Bush military mother and the owner of a Bush memorobilia store in Crawford. [includes rush transcript]
Military Mothers and Veterans Call for Troop Pullout on Last Weekend of Camp Casey

Cindy Sheehan and other military families spoke at a mass rally during the last weekend of Bush's vacation - and the last weekend of Camp Casey. We hear from Cindy, mothers Amy Branham and Jane Bright, and a Marine veteran. [includes rush transcript]
The Posada Files: El Paso Judge to Determine Whether Bay of Pigs Was Terrorist Act

Cuban-born former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles is facing a deportation hearing El Paso today. The judge will look at Posada's record to determine whether he should get asylum in the United States. Protests around the U.S. and Canada are calling for Posada's extradition to Venezuela for masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner.
Lloyd e-mails to note Matthew Rothschild's "Bush Gilds the Thistle" (The Progressive): 

Undeterred by fact, Bush said on Sunday that the Iraqi constitution is "an inspiration to all who share the universal values of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law."


This constitution, with its heavy emphasis on Islam, gives Iraqis the right to go to clerical courts governed by Sharia law. As a result, many Iraqi women will be a lot less free than they were under Saddam Hussein.

Bush praised the constitution for declaring that "all Iraqis are equal before the law without regard to gender, ethnicity, and religion." But that assurance will be meaningless to women if Sharia law governs.

Bush is becoming increasingly distant from reality, his words unmoored from their meanings, his policy totally at sea.

And even as he flounders, he demands "more time, more sacrifice, more resolve" for his war, as he said on Saturday.

But he is not the one who is doing the sacrificing.

His policy is a disaster, and if he can't recognize this, at least a majority of Americans can.

That is why Cindy Sheehan continues to strike a chord.

Now we'll note Bob Somerby's latest at The Daily Howler:
BACK-TO-SCHOOL BLUES (PART 1): Here in Baltimore, children return to school today. And Bob Herbert, to his credit, discusses their unending bad prospects. "Left Behind, Way Behind," reads the headline on his Times op-ed column. In the piece, Herbert cites a new study commissioned by two liberal think tanks:
HERBERT (9/29/05): An education task force established by the center and the institute noted the following:

"'Young low-income and minority children are more likely to start school without having gained important school readiness skills, such as recognizing letters and counting...By the fourth grade, low-income students read about three grade levels behind non-poor students. Across the nation, only 15 percent of low-income fourth graders achieved proficiency in reading in 2003, compared to 41 percent of non-poor students."

"How's that for a disturbing passage?" Herbert asks. "Not only is the picture horribly bleak for low-income and minority kids, but we find that only 41 percent of non-poor fourth graders can read proficiently. I respectfully suggest that we may be looking at a crisis here."

For starters, a note about the concept of "proficiency." To a large extent, "proficiency" is in the eye of the beholder. That is, researchers can set the standard for "proficiency" wherever they please, producing various results in the process. In the study by this task force, what did fourth-graders have to do to show they were "proficient" in reading? Herbert doesn't attempt to say. Therefore, when we read that "only 41 percent of non-poor fourth graders can read proficiently," we don't really know what is being said. Nor is it clear that the non-poor fourth-graders are really involved in a “crisis."

Beyond that, the quoted passage might seem a bit puzzling. If most non-poor fourth graders can't read "proficiently," then Herbert's readers might assume that these kids read at third grade level or below. If so, what exactly does it mean when we're told that "low-income students read about three grade levels behind" that? We haven't looked at this study yet. But as often happens when mainstream scribes write about public ed, Herbert's column draws sweeping conclusions on the basis of poorly-parsed data.

Trevor e-mails to note an interesting photo that Delilah has posted at A Scrivener's Lament. I don't think anyone can get in trouble for looking at it at work (those in the photo are clothed).
We'll note Media Matters' "Did Time intentionally deceive its readers in Plame case?" which Marco e-mailed:

For some time, the central mystery in the Valerie Plame saga was which members of the White House staff leaked the undercover CIA operative's identity to reporters. Although there are still many unanswered questions, at least part of the mystery has been solved: Time magazine correspondent Matthew Cooper has testified that he was told about Plame by White House senior adviser Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. Yet while Cooper and his editors at Time spent two years keeping Rove and Libby's -- and their own -- role a secret, they published articles that reported, without challenge, a statement from the White House that they knew to be false.

The issue of Time's actions over the past two years was revived by an August 25 Los Angeles Times article stating that the magazine did not pursue a waiver from Rove allowing Cooper to testify in part because "Time editors were concerned about becoming part of such an explosive story in an election year." While the favor this "concern" did for the Bush re-election effort has been criticized, Time's lack of disclosure about its own role in the affair has gone largely unnoticed.

As the Los Angeles Times laid out the chronology, the details of which became publicly known only earlier this summer, on July 11, 2003, Rove told Cooper that the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV worked for the CIA and had a role in sending Wilson on a 2002 mission to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium there. After speaking to Rove, Cooper sent an email to Michael Duffy, Time's Washington bureau chief, relating what Rove had told him about Wilson's wife and saying that Rove had spoken on "double super secret background." The next day, Cooper spoke to Libby, who confirmed Plame's identity. Two days later, Robert D. Novak's infamous column revealing Plame's identity appeared.

Toni e-mails to note Karen E. Pride's "Commemoration of Emmett Till lynching anniversary includes renaming expressway bridge" (The Chicago Defender):
A sea of community and faith leaders, elected officials, residents and family members of Emmett Till gathered on the 71st Street Bridge crossing the Dan Ryan Expressway Sunday to remember the 14-year-old Chicago boy who was kidnapped and brutally murdered 50 years ago during the height of racial discrimination in Mississippi.

Nearly 150 people showed up to participate in the “Hands Across Emmett Till Road” commemoration.

A stretch of 71st Street from Kedzie Avenue on the west to South Shore Drive on the east was designated at Emmett Till Road in 1984.  

Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed legislation allowing for the renaming of the expressway span, complete with signage reading “Emmett Till Memorial Bridge,” after Rep. Milton Patterson (D-34th) drafted a resolution requesting it.

The bridge now completes an uninterrupted memorial to the young man who was killed on Aug. 28, 1955.

“This is really the result of the community expressing its wishes,” Patterson told the Defender.  “I just did what I promised my constituents and told the governor what they wanted.”

Rita e-mails to note Christine's latest at Ms. Musing, "This Is (Not) Your Mother's War:"

Unlike the 1960s, when anti-Vietnam protests were led by young men subject to the draft, today's war protester is more likely to look like your mother.

That's the premise of this New York Times story about women on the political frontline. Elisabeth Bumiller writes:

What happened in 40 years? How has that changed how the White House responds?

In interviews last week, some of the female protesters suggested that decades of feminism had pushed them more easily into leadership and public speaking roles in the antiwar vigils inspired by Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a slain soldier, who is demanding to meet with Mr. Bush in a protest outside his ranch. But they also viewed the war through the traditional prism of mothers and wives, and said that women felt the pain of loss more intensely than men.

[. . .]

Though I'm doubtful that many men aren't grieving to the same extent or finding Bush's war equally reprehensible, women have become more organized in recent years. The piece fails to mention Code Pink, a dynamic women's peace group that formed in 2002 in response to the build-up to war with Iraq. Nor does it mention Mothers Against Bush, which gained some traction during the 2004 election. According to the group's website, "The MOB has become MOBilizing Mothers, an army of 24,000 mothers in 350 sister cities working for laws that protect our children and families." The group will debut this fall.

I wish the NYT had also addressed how the press dwells on and inflates the narrative of anti- and pro-war mothers. The emotional response, as well as the visuals, makes for good TV -- though it ends up simplifying the war debate. Overall, it might be more productive to see these women inspired by a feminist ethic instead of a biological imperative.

Note, Christine's excerpt of the Times op-ed by Bumiller is longer and Patt Morrison is cited.  (FYI, Morrison uses "if" in the place of "unless" in the To Die For quote.  Noting that before I get an e-mail on it.)

Pam e-mails to note that Harper's Magazine has posted Paul Roberts' "Last Stop Gas: Cheap oil, the only oil that matters, is just about gone" online.  This article ran in the August 2004 issue.  (Yes, "2004.")  Here's an excerpt:

As gas prices rise, oil policy, to no one's great surprise, has become a major fixation of the presidential candidates and their surrogates. At any given moment, they can be found debating how the United States should persuade OPEC to bring down the price of crude or which candidate favors increasing gasoline taxes least. In June the argument was over how much oil there ought to be in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). George Bush said we should fill it to the brim. John Kerry thought that just below the brim would be fine. In all of this back-and-forthing, however, neither of the candidates has mentioned the real problem facing American consumers of petroleum and petroleum by-products. Like the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the Earth itself has a limited storage capacity, and at some point in the not-too-distant future, the cheap oil that fueled 100 years of economic growth will cease to exist.

The key here is a concept known as peak oil production. In 1956 the agro-physicist M. King Hubbert observed that the production of oil from any given field does not proceed smoothly until the last drop of oil has been sucked from the ground but instead follows a long peaking curve. Once roughly half the oil has been extracted, it becomes harder--and more expensive--to get at the remainder. Daily production begins to fall off, and eventually the field is abandoned. Hubbert believed that this peak phenomenon (known today as Hubbert's Curve) could be seen at any scale--from a single field in Texas to all the fields in a country. Less than two decades later, Hubbert's theory was vindicated. In 1971 oil production in the United States hit a peak and began a long, slow decline that oil companies, despite much effort, have not been able to reverse.

Ultimately, such a peak must also occur globally. It doesn't mean that the oil will stop flowing overnight. But it does mean that oil producers will find it harder and harder, and, eventually, impossible, to raise their yearly production. And since demand will continue to rise (oil may be finite, but our energy appetites are not), the price of oil will head for the sky. The last time production fell seriously behind demand--the Iranian revolution of 1979--oil prices hit the modern-day equivalent of $80 a barrel and pushed the world into a deep recession. And keep in mind that this was a temporary disruption: a permanent decline in oil production (assuming we haven't found something new to burn) would be an economic catastrophe.

And lastly, Zach e-mails to note Norman Solomon's "Triangulation for War" (CounterPunch):

For that matter, we should question just how "inexorable" a U.S. exit from Iraq is. After all, it's hardly certain that the worst and dumbest or the best and brightest in Washington will opt for evacuation of the U.S. military bases in Iraq. And can we really assume that the president will order complete withdrawal from a country with so many billions of barrels of oil under the sand?

While many anti-GOP pundits insist that a fast withdrawal is no way to go, numerous leaders of the Democratic Party are even more eager to triangulate. "Senior Democrats sought to distance themselves Sunday from Sheehan's protest," the Washington Post reports. On a Fox network show, Sen. Byron Dorgan said: "If we withdrew tomorrow, there would be a bloodbath in Iraq. We can't do that." Yet a bloodbath is already well underway in Iraq and shows no sign of abating under the U.S. occupation.

Meanwhile, a more overt pro-war position is explicit from the Washington Post, which seems bent on replicating its blood-soaked history of editorial support for the Vietnam War.

In August 1966 the Post's owner, Katharine Graham, discussed the war with a writer in line to take charge of the newspaper's editorial page. "We agreed that the Post ought to work its way out of the very supportive editorial position it had taken, but that we couldn't be precipitate; we had to move away gradually from where we had been," Graham was to write in her autobiography. Many more deaths resulted from such unwillingness to "be precipitate."

In August 2005, while noting the latest setbacks for the U.S. agenda in Iraq, the Post's editorial on the last Saturday of the month did not waver -- and was certainly not precipitate: "There is no cause for despair, or for abandoning the basic U.S. strategy in Iraq, which is to support the election of a permanent national government and train security forces capable of defending it with continuing help from American troops. But it is dispiriting, and damaging to the chances for success, that President Bush still refuses to speak honestly to the country about the challenges the United States now faces, or how he intends to address them."

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