Thursday, August 25, 2005

Democracy Now: Celeste Zappala, the case of Frances Newton; Tom Hayden, Kim Gandy, Juan Gonzalez, BuzzFlash interviews Jennifer K. Harbury, Bob Somerby...


Amb. Joe Wilson Defends Sheehan
With the stage set for a possible show down in Crawford this weekend, more prominent figures are lending their support to Sheehan. In recent days, musicians Joan Baez and Steve Earle have performed at Camp Casey. Veteran civil rights activists and many veterans of the Iraq war are camped out there. On Wednesday, former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson issued a statement saying "The Bush White House and its right-wing allies are responding to Cindy Sheehan and the military families' vigil in central Texas in the same way that they always respond to bad news -- by unleashing personal attacks and smears against her."

White House Denies Bush on Vacation
Meanwhile, the White House is denying that President Bush is on vacation. Administration spokesperson David Almacy said the reason that Bush is in Crawford, Texas, is due to the renovation of the West Wing of the White House. Almacy said "He's operating on a full schedule; he's just doing it from the ranch instead of from the White House." He continued, "The only week he had officially off was this last week.'

MSNBC Journalist Calls Crawford Protesters 'Anti-war Extremists'
As the American Legion declares war on peace activists, President Bush and his allies continue to find support among some in the media for what many see as a smear campaign against Cindy Sheehan and other antiwar military families. On Monday's edition of MSNBC's Hardball, White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell labeled anti-war demonstrators at Bush's property in Crawford "anti-war extremists." The comments came in an exchange with FBI whistleblower turned Congressional candidate Colleen Rowley:

  • MSNBC's Hardball:

    O'DONNELL: You're a Democrat running for Congress. It was reported that Republican leaders in your state were just thrilled that you had decided to align yourself with anti-war extremists. Do you think that this could affect your race for Congress?

    ROWLEY: Well, I will quickly correct the record that they are not anti-war extremists. The majority of the people I saw down in Crawford were actually veterans groups. There were military families and --

    O'DONNELL: But, Colleen, they do oppose the war in Iraq, do they not?

    ROWLEY: Yes, they do. But that does not make, I guess the term extremists. They're really, I think, reflective of mainstream America in many ways.”

FBI whistleblower Colleen Rowley responding to MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell. Thanks to for posting that clip.

The above are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by West, Amanda and Joan.  Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):
Headlines for August 25, 2005

- President Bush Launches Major Defensive
- Amb. Joe Wilson Defends Sheehan
- White House Denies Bush on Vacation
- Israel Plans to Seize More Land
- Pat Robertson Lies, Then Apologizes for Chavez Threat
- American Legion Declares War on Peace Movement
Bush Rejects Calls for Immediate Withdrawal from Iraq as Approval Rating Plummets to New Low

President Bush mounted a major defense of the war in Iraq this week as he faces the lowest approval rating of his presidency. In his address in the Republican stronghold of Idaho, Bush rejected calls for an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and played up the case of a military mother who supported the Iraq war in what seemed a direct contrast to Cindy Sheehan. [includes rush transcript]
Cindy's Crawford: Sheehan Returns to Camp Casey for Remaining Days of Bush's Vacation

Cindy Sheehan both returned to Crawford Crawford, Texas Wednesday evening to rejoin the internationally-known vigil she began two weeks ago. We play an excerpt of an address Sheehan gave at Camp Casey where she says, "[Bush] put our kids in another person's country, and Casey was killed by insurgents. He wasn't killed by terrorists. He was killed by Shiite militia who wanted him out of the country." [includes rush transcript]
[Note: Clip of Joan Baez performing at Camp Casey in Crawford appears here if you're watching or listening to the full broadcast.  Jess pointed this out.]
Iraq Veterans, Military Mothers and Peace Activists Discuss Bush and Iraq

As President Bush and Cindy Sheehan both return to Camp Casey, we speak with one of the other founders of Gold Star Families for Peace, Celeste Zappala, a peace activist in Idaho, where President Bush just addressed the National Guard as well as a marine who's recently returned from Iraq.
From Death Row: Texas Set to Execute First African-American Woman Since Civil War

The State of Texas is scheduled to execute Frances Newton on September 14. Supporters say the courts should grant her another trial based on new evidence, especially given that infamous defense attorney Ron Mock originally represented her. We hear from Frances Newton herself and speak with her attorney David Dow.
Tom Hayden's "Is Russ Feingold the Next Howard Dean?  Or Paul Wellstone?" (The Huffington Post):

The best that can be said of Feingold's proposal is that it is a brave departure from the ice house of the Senate, with potential for being developed further as he travels the country. Its main deficiency is the lack of an exit strategy, which might consist of appointing a peace envoy, commencing talks with insurgent groups, along with confidence-building declarations that the US has no interest in permanent military bases or privatizing the Iraqi economy for foreign investors. Most, though not all, Americans are hesitant about military withdrawal without accompanying efforts at a negotiated political settlement. That is why the Bush Administration works so feverishly at creating the appearance of progress towards an Iraqi constitutional process.

Feingold's caution was displayed at a Town Hall meeting Wednesday morning when he spent thirty minutes describing his Iraq proposal as a "course correction" in the larger war on terrorism. It is characteristic of Beltway Democratic thinking to frame even anti-war criticism as part of pro-war rhetoric on terrorism. It is true, of course, that all Americans live on borrowed time because of the probability of another 9/11 attack, and it is true that the war in Iraq is a rallying point for would-be martyr-bombers. But the debate over the war cannot be reduced to which party is "tougher" on national security. The reasons that voters are anti-war are due to the Bush Administration's deceit, the needless deaths in an unnecessary conflict, the one billion dollars spent per week, the war profiteering, the deepening of our global isolation, and the shame brought to America by prison torture.

The strongest moment in Feingold's Town Hall speech came at the end when, struggling with genuine emotion, he spoke of his 25-year old daughter in London. He wanted her to go as far as possible in life, he said, and "always be welcomed as an American, which any parent should want for their child."

Feingold's effort is a work in progress. But already he has ended the silence of the Senate and aligned himself with the grass roots majority. Beyond his Iraq initiative, Feingold represents an attractive, progressive profile in courage on other issues. He consistently opposes his colleagues on trade agreements that lack enforceable worker and environmental protections. He was the only Senator to vote against the Patriot Act. He has opposed the death penalty for many years. He is the champion of the soft-money contribution ban. He fights to reclaim the label "patriot" from the right-wing. He comes from a state with a long history of populism, labor struggles, and isolationism capable of producing both reactionary and progressive populists. He has the qualities of a new Paul Wellstone.

Erika e-mails to note Kim Gandy's latest, "Below the Belt: Updates from Around the States" (NOW):
But before we start the tour, I just have to say a few words about the recent revelations of misogyny from Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court, John G. Roberts. We've opposed his nomination from the beginning, and have organized regular "No on Roberts" meetings at the NOW Action Center of all the groups that have taken a position against his confirmation -- we knew that he would be a bad vote for women's rights based simply on the public record that was available at the time.

But the recent documents released by the Reagan Library (isn't it funny that so many documents have vanished, just coincidentally after their review by White House lawyers) demonstrate vividly his contempt for women and for equal treatment. When asked whether a staffer could be nominated for a Clairol award that recognized women who had changed their lives and made a contribution, he smirked: "Some might question whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good." And this from a young lawyer who was only 5 years out of law school at the time. He also criticized the concept of pay equity for women as "staggeringly pernicious" and "anti-capitalist" and repeatedly questions the very existence of our concerns, as in references to the "purported gender gap" and "perceived problems of gender discrimination."

We were right all along -- and if you haven't already written to your Senators demanding a "NO" vote on confirmation, now would be a good time to do it. We're already down to one woman on the Court, and we don't need to add a man who disparages women's accomplishments and denigrates our desire for equal treatment. Write to your senators online.

Erika picked the pull quote and wanted it noted that NOW called it correctly from the start.  (Agreed.)  Erika also notes that male writers keep seeing "humor" in Roberts "jokes" while women don't see it as a laughing matter.  (Here, we've noted Christine of Ms. Musing who noted Dahlia Lithwich.)  A lot of male writers do seem to see the whole thing as a yuck-fest and I don't think we can pin it all on the smelly fumes from Todd S. Purdum's jock (as always, I could be wrong).  But note, Robert Parry, serious journalist, didn't disgrace himself with head butts, high fives and butt pats in the locker room -- "Judge Roberts's Slap at Women" (Consortium News). So it hasn't been all the male writers.  (Also note, Parry has a new article, "Explaining the Bush Cocoon," that we'll be pulling from in our Indymedia posts tonight.)
We'll note "Jennifer K. Harbury Knows American Torture Starts at the Top, and It Has for Decades" (BuzzFlash):

BuzzFlash: We know that some officials currently in the Bush Administration – Negroponte, for instance - and others who have come and gone – Elliott Abrams – these people were deeply involved in Iran Contra and in condoning the torture and murder in the Eighties that went on. Your husband's torture and death occurred in the early Nineties. This has been long-standing policy of the United States to condone torture, although they deny it. And the School of the Americas has recently been renamed "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation," or WHISC – to make it sound as though things have changed.

Jennifer K. Harbury: Well, what I've been trying to do in the new book is document exactly this. The new book is out now, published by Beacon Press, Truth, Torture and the American Way. In the book, I document the use of torture by the U.S. government - especially the CIA and other intelligence forces - the development of these extraordinary torture techniques, like stress and duress, the water pit, the water boarding, et cetera, et cetera, and how those were brought together with death squad techniques, starting in Vietnam and the Phoenix Operation. A number of those torture techniques were developed in Vietnam, then brought to Central America and Latin America by our own intelligence forces. Not only did we train the worst human rights violators at the School of the Americas, and very often use them as CIA assets and liaisons, putting them actually on our payroll -- but very often, our own intelligence officials are actually present in the torture cells in Latin America.

I documented more than twenty of those cases in the book. We weren't just "professionalizing" military dictatorships in Guatemala and Latin America as they carried out massive repression, waves of terror, counter-insurgency programs and even genocides. We weren't just "professionalizing" them - funding them and equipping them – we were working hand in glove with them, as was confirmed by the U.N. Truth Commission report in Guatemala, for example. Again, Americans were preparing the list of questions. We knew who was being held, and where they were being held and tortured. We knew that they would be executed. We did not inform the police, the courts or their families, and we even went in and out with lists of questions of our own, sometimes even talking to the victim. And then we just left them in there to die, and we continued payments to the people who were torturing and killing them.

Some of the worst of those techniques, and some of the people who developed all of those programs, are now in the Middle East. And you can see exactly the same torture techniques being used over there. For example, the iconic photograph of the prisoner standing on the box at Abu Ghraib – the man in the hood with the wires – that position is known in intelligence circles as the Vietnam position.

BuzzFlash: You are colleagues with Sister Diana - who is in Hidden in Plain Sight – is that right?

Jennifer K. Harbury: Yes.

BuzzFlash: Her story makes it clear that, merely to be associated with the poor, is to be considered a rebel. What could be called the resistance in Latin America ranges from armed rebels, who might have been inspired by Che Guevara, to Jesuit priests who've worked with the poor and tried to help the poor not be poor. That was a crime worthy of torture, which was what happened to Sister Diana.

Bush constantly divides the world into "good guys" and "bad guys." But those not deemed bad guys have been tortured. Some Americans just say, well, we're up against a tough enemy. Sometimes you need to do dirty work like this. This is sort of what we saw under the Reagan Administration, and some of the people who were responsible then, as far as U.S. oversight, like Negroponte and Abrams, seem to condone this. From the Latin American experience, even if one is among those Americans who somehow in their own minds rationalize torture for the "bad guys," it's not just the bad guys who are tortured.

Links in the excerpt from the interview above take you to more information (and give you the option of purchasing).  A number of you will probably remember Jennifer K. Harbury being interviewed by Amy Goodman for "Wife of Guatemalan Rebel Killed by CIA Asset Says CIA Operatives Engaged in Criminal Acts Should be Exposed:" (Democracy Now!, July 27, 2005)
Shirley e-mailed to point out that I referred to a post of Elaine's this morning but forgot to include the link (my apologies).  It's "3 items from Democracy Now! and Kat's review of The Complete Cass Elliot Solo Collection 1968-1971" (Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Elaine's filling in for Rebecca through the end of this month).
Jess e-mails to note that Mike interviewed Ty.  From "Democracy Now! and my interview with Ty" (Mikey Likes It!), here's the section Jess wanted highlighted:
 Well, when I brought up the question, I was actually thinking in terms of your favorite thing that's been done at The Third Estate Sunday Review?

Ty: Hmm. There's a large number of things. I liked the whole summer edition, where we had the creative writing pieces.

And you came up with the idea for "
K-Boy Tries To Get Back Home (a horrific parable)."

Ty: Yeah. We were talking about Stephen King before and that's where you were headed, I get it. I wanted something spooky and I did think up the idea but I didn't know where it was going. It was a group effort but I do like that story and I am glad for my part in getting the basic idea. I also liked
the sixties edition too. Those things take a lot of time and you can't do them every week but I think they contain some of our better stuff because we're doing something that's creative and works off the interplay between us. Also there's not a lot of creative writing going on at political sites. C.I. does it. Like "Rudith Miller" or "COUP: Today Show Seizes Control of the New York Times' Front Page" --

Or my favorite "
Clubbing With the New York Times."

Ty: Yeah that's hysterical but it takes a lot of work to do something like that. So at
The Third Estate Sunday Review we don't usually have the time for a special edition even though we all are really proud of them when we do them.
Jess also notes that Democracy Now! features a clip of Joan Baez performing at Camp Casey and you can listen or watch that online if you missed it.  
And we'll note this from Mike's entry yesterday:
I've interviewed Dona, Jim, Ava and now you, so Jess is next and I'm wondering if you had any questions I should ask him about?
So if you've missed any, there are links to the earlier ones and Jess will be up next Wednesday.
And let's note that for the last two days, Elaine and Mike have selected the same headlines from Democracy Now! to note and discuss to see what one might notice and the other might not.  Here's Elaine Wednesday, Mike Wednesday, Elaine Tuesday and Mike Tuesday.  (Also Tuesday, Elaine posts a message from Rebecca, just FYI.)
Bob Somerby's addressing John Harris' book at The Daily Howler.  Where we're coming in, in the excerpt below, Harris says it's hard to remember how the Whitewater "cottage industry:"
Say what? Even people well versed in Whitewater had trouble remembering how the mess got started? In fact, as Harris knows perfectly well, the Whitewater mess "got started" on the front page of the New York Times, in a series of weirdly bungled stories that became the subject of Gene Lyons' seminal book, Fools for Scandal (published by Harper’s in 1996). But how strange! Jeff Gerth wrote those bungled Times stories. But Gerth's name never appears in Harris' book; Gerth has been deftly disappeared, along with everyone else in the mainstream press corps who created this definitive Clinton-era pseudo-scandal. For example, the Washington Post's Susan Schmidt is absent from her colleague's book, although she played a large role in Lyons'. But then, Lyons himself is among the missing; Fools for Scandal is never mentioned by Harris, nor are any of the problems with the press corps' work which were detailed in that book. Indeed, in the paragraph quoted above, we see the press corps' reliable skill at disappearing its greatest acts of misconduct. Quite accurately, Harris tells us what "Whitewater" meant to "Clinton accusers"--but he never gets around to saying who those "accusers" actually were! The hapless reader is left to guess at the identity of Clinton's "accusers." Harris suggests that he can't recall--and Gerth, Schmidt and others disappear.

Indeed, how good is Harris at the key skill of making his cohort disappear? Early on, he contrasts the Wall Street Journal's "arch-conservative editorial page" with that of "the ostensibly more sympathetic New York Times"--failing to recall or say that the "ostensibly more sympathetic" Times wrote endless editorials savaging Clinton over Whitewater and various other pseudo-scandals--editorials which turned out to be vastly misleading about the conduct involved in these matters. And three pages later, he makes his press corps disappear once again. Harris wonders what would have happened if the Clintons had released all their Whitewater papers to the gang of know-it-all snoops at his own Washington Post:

HARRIS (page 105): The decision to make a voluntary document disclosure to mews organizations produced one of the great what-if questions of the Clinton years. What would have happened had the Clintons listened to their political advisers instead of their lawyers or their own instinct for privacy? Might this have released the air from the rising scandal, letting Whitewater drift into obscurity? A voluntary document disclosure would not have satisfied the Clintons' Republican skeptics, of course. However, presuming that such a disclosure would have yielded only embarrassment and not clear suggestions of illegality, it almost certainly would have satisfied the Democratic skeptics.
Yes, but would it have satisfied the Clintons' press corps skeptics? Again, Harris completely erases the group which drove Whitewater right from the start. Harris refuses to tell his readers about his own cohort's central role in this matter. His narration is all about R's and D's. The press corps' central role disappears.
Lauren e-mails to note Ralph Nader's "It's Time to Make the Iraq War Personal" (CounterPunch): 

We need additional sparks so that, in the words of one military mother, "the architects of this war, who have no children at risk, start listening to those families who do."

There are hundreds of pastors who are opposed to this violent quagmire in which our country has been plunged. Every morning their churches could toll their bells for each U.S. soldier lost the previous day ­ one bell for each ultimate sacrifice. And one long bell for the Iraqis who lost their lives that day.

On Sunday, the bells could be rung at the same time everywhere in the memory of the weeks' total casualties. The National Council of Churches, outspoken before the war with compassionate prescience, can lead this effort with rapid effectiveness.

These bells of sorrow and reminder will get millions of Americans thinking and talking with one another where it counts - in communities North, South, East and West.

People would transcend the bromides and slogans that the Bush people trumpet daily over the television and radio and give themselves a daily opportunity to ask and contemplate the fundamental question - for whom does the bell toll?

Asking this question puts our society on the road to finding the answers, as if people matter here and in Iraq first and foremost.

Martha e-mails to note Greg Palast's "Pat and Hugo: The Real Story - Part 1" (
So why, with a huge majority of the electorate behind him, twice in elections and today with a nearly two-to-one landslide victory in a recall referendum, is Hugo Chavez in hot water with our democracy-promoting White House?

Maybe it's the oil. Lots of it. Chavez sits atop a reserve of crude that rivals Iraq's. And it's not his presidency of Venezuela that drives the White House bananas, it was his presidency of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC. While in control of the OPEC secretariat, Chavez cut a deal with our maximum leader of the time, Bill Clinton, on the price of oil. It was a 'Goldilocks' plan. The price would not be too low, not too high; just right, kept between $20 and $30 a barrel.

But Dick Cheney does not like Clinton nor Chavez nor their band. To him, the oil industry's (and Saudi Arabia's) freedom to set oil prices is as sacred as freedom of speech is to the ACLU. I got this info, by the way, from three top oil industry lobbyists.

Why should Chavez worry about what Dick thinks? Because, said one of the oil men, the Veep in his bunker, not the pretzel-chewer in the White House, "runs energy policy in the United States."

And what seems to have gotten our Veep's knickers in a twist is not the price of oil, but who keeps the loot from the current band-busting spurt in prices. Chavez had his Congress pass another oil law, the "Law of Hydrocarbons," which changes the split. Right now, the oil majors - like PhillipsConoco - keep 84% of the proceeds of the sale of Venezuela oil; the nation gets only 16%.

And let's close with Democracy Now!'s Juan Gonzalez's "Oil fat cats vs. Hugo Chavez" (New York Daily News):

Which brings me to Pat Robertson and Hugo Chavez.

Robertson, the right-wing evangelist and friend of the Bush family, publicly called this week for the U.S. government to kill - or at least kidnap - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

"This is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us badly," Robertson said. His less-than-Christian remarks ignited an outcry and forced him to issue an apology of sorts, though he still insisted that he had at least "focused our government's attention on a growing problem."

That "problem," quite simply, is that Chavez, a radical populist who has been voted into office repeatedly by huge majorities in his own country, controls the largest reserve of petroleum outside the Middle East.

Neither Robertson, nor former oil executives George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice, nor their buddies at Exxon/Mobil, Chevron, etc., are happy about all this.

Even more scandalous for Big Oil, Chavez is using Venezuela's windfall not to fatten his own country's oligarchy but to benefit the Venezuelan poor and help neighboring countries.

I only thought we were through.  A visitor e-mails "An Unlikely Conversation With The Cowards in Congress" (TV News Lies):

What shameful toads you are! Yes you, our elected lawmakers.  Yes you, the folks we sent to Washington in our names.  Yes you, the most spineless, cowardly and craven Congress people in history. Yes you, the most bullied, gutless and shameful herd of legislators ever elected. And you know exactly who you are.

Where in hell is your integrity? Where in hell is your self-respect?  You’ve been led by your submissive noses to do the bidding of liars and warmongers.  You’ve been suckered into applauding some of the most egregious crimes ever committed by a US government.  You’ve become such a pitiful collection of sniveling sycophants. And you know damn well who you are.

What’s that? You want to know what you’ve done? Of what odious crimes are you guilty to evoke such striking condemnation?  Is that what you’re asking? Is that what you really want to know? You’re joking, right?  Do you want the American people to believe you have no idea what this is all about? What nonsense that is.

But, for the sake of discourse, let’s accept your ignorance for the moment.  For starters, let’s take a look at two provisions in that forgotten document, the Constitution of the United States.  Perhaps their significance will ring a bell somewhere in your pathetic and paralyzed minds.

We can begin with Article 1, Section 8. Here, the Constitution clearly states that you, and only you, have the right to declare war. Did you get that? Only Congress can take on the awesome responsibility of causing death and mayhem when there is a need to go to war. Only the Congress of the United States has the Constitutional power do that. Keep that in mind as we go on.

Next, let’s do a replay of an Article you knew only too well a few years ago: Article II, Section 4. It says that the President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.  Remember that one?

Do you remember how you fell over one another to speak at the podia of your respective Houses to condemn Bill Clinton’s private affair with Monica Lewinsky?  You came out from under every piece of woodwork in the Capitol with such pompous indignation.  You came from both political parties to wail to your constituents about the sexual indiscretions of a sitting President. And then you impeached him.

Yes, you were divided, but you crossed party lines to demand a trial for perjury and obstruction of justice. Keep that in mind, too.

You still don’t understand, do you?  Of course, you don’t. You still want to know what it is you’ve allegedly done. You have no clue at all. You cannot see that your guilt has nothing at all to do with anything you have done.  Rather, your collective culpability lies in your INACTION, your SILENCE, your ACQUIESCENCE and your docile SURRENDER to the administration of PNAC as fronted by George W. Bush. Your cowardice is reflected in your complicity in his crimes against this nation and the world, and your refusal to stand up and denounce the secrecy, the duplicity, and the blatant lies that have brought the United States to this terrible moment in its history.

You forfeited whatever integrity you might have had as you timidly allowed a curtain of fear and intimidation to fall over Washington and the nation. You knew that, but you probably don’t want to deal with it.  Denial is salvation for some, and you probably needed to feel self-righteous about your role in Congress and your loyalty to your voters.  Some joke. In fact, you are little more than cheap imitations of true public servants. And you know without any doubt at all who you are.

The above is an excerpt.  There's more, including a conclusion as well as "A Short List Of Offenses," so please use the link.  I've selected the excerpt and while I agree that the offenses are worth noting, TV News Lies is a new link this month (permalink on the left) and I selected the excerpt to give members a sense of the passion you can find at TV News Lies
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