Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Democracy Now: Ricardo Alarcon; Schechter, Curry, Gandy, Somerby, Parry,Camilo Mejia ...

St. Patrick's Four Trial Opens
In Binghimton New York, the trial has begun for the Saint Patrick's Four - the four anti-war activists facing federal conspiracy charges for spilling their own blood inside a military recruiting station to protest the Iraq war. One of the defendants, Daniel Burns, said in court on Tuesday, " We wanted to make visible the truth of war. We were called by our faith, the law and our moral beliefs to peacefully protest the war." The four protesters face up to six years in prison and $275,000 in fines.
AG Gonzalez: Fighting Pornography Is a "Top Priority"
The FBI is recruiting agents for a new anti-obscenity squad. According to job postings for the position, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez now believes that fighting pornography is one of the Justice Department's " top priorities."
Karzai Calls for U.S. To Stop Air Strikes
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai is publicly challenging the U.S. military's role in the country. On Tuesday he asked the U.S to stop staging air strikes and to halt the searching people's homes without the government authorization. Karzai said "I don't think there is a big need for military activity in Afghanistan anymore."
The three items above are from Democracy Now!'s Headlines today and were selected by Markus, Portland and Liang. Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):
Headlines for September 21, 2005

- Hurricane Rita Upgraded to Category 4 Storm
- U.S to Burn 400,000 Rations of Food For Katrina Survivors
- UK Defends Attack on Iraqi Jail
- Karzai Calls for U.S. To Stop Air Strikes
- U.S. Invests Over $1B to Upgrade Middle East Bases
- Sen. Harry Reid to Vote Against John Roberts
- Army to Begin Recruiting High School Dropouts
- AG Gonzalez: Fighting Pornography Is a "Top Priority"
Cuba's Number 2, Ricardo Alarcon, Blasts 'Neoliberal' Katrina Response: "Our Entire National Defense, Our Entire Army, And Our Entire Society Is Prepared To Defend Itself, Not To Attack Others, Not To Occupy Foreign Lands."

We speak with Ricardo Alarcon, President of the Cuban National Assembly, at a time when Cuba is facing increased hostilities from the Bush administration. We begin with hurricanes and Cuba’s offer of medical aid to the US.
Alarcon Demands Immediate Release of 'Cuban 5' : 'They Are Now Kidnapped'

We speak with Ricardo Alarcon about the case of the Cuban 5 – five Cuban nationals arrested in 1998 and accused of being spies and a threat to US national security.
Tamara e-mails to note Danny Schechter's "Media on the March, But to Where?" (News Dissector):


Last night I dropped in a fundraising benefit for a film about GI antiwar activism during the Vietnam War. Its relevance was made clear by the presence of a leader of Iraq Veterans Against the War, an organization that now has several hundred members and plans to march in force in Washington on Saturday.

The film is Sir, No Sir, directed by David Zeiger, who worked in the GI movement back in the day.

Featured in the film, and passionately supporting it, is none other than Jane Fonda, who explained she became an antiwar activist because of the GI's who opposed the war. She toured with an anti-Bob Hope-type show called F*ck the Army at the time, but always in the company of soldiers.

This is ironic, she noted, because of all the attacks on her by right-wing veterans who picture her as anti-military. She noted that the history of the antiwar movement has disappeared -- "abra-cadabra!" was the term she used to suggest that it was made to vanish by the media and politicians.

Of John Kerry, once a soldier-activist, she said, "If he had owned his participation in that struggle -- rather than denied it -- he might have won."

Fonda has lost none of her fire and, in a sense, she has come "home" to her roots after a long period of taking shelter when denigrated as "Hanoi Jane," a punching bag and symbol of distortion and derision by the right. She said she believes in a strong military, but not one that serves unjust wars.

She was not only a passionate speaker, but a great fundraiser. Events in Los Angeles and New York have probably raised more than $150,000 to help finish the film. Among those present last night were Air America Radio's Al Franken, Danny Goldberg and Carl Ginsburg.

For more information, see:

Ryan e-mails to note George E. Curry's "George W. is no LBJ" (The Chicago Defender):

After stumbling miserably out of the gate, George W. Bush has finally caught up with the American public and now realizes that there is widespread support for rebuilding New Orleans. He has finally struck the right rhetorical chords, pledging to “renew our promise as a land of equality and decency.” He went on to say, “As we clear away the debris of a hurricane, let us also clear away the legacy of inequality.”

With Bush, it is always better to ignore the language and examine his record. He has made some sweeping endorsements of diversity that would have made even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. proud. But he used Dr. King’s birthday to announce his opposition to a pair of University of Michigan affirmative action cases that went before the Supreme Court. Over Bush’s objection, the conservative court upheld Michigan’s law school admissions program while invalidating a more numbers-oriented undergraduate plan.

Billie e-mails to note Bob Somerby's latest Daily Howler:

RAGIN' FOR NAGIN: Good lord, Ray Nagin's a fabulous guy! For one of the warmest tongue-baths in recent press history, read Joyce Purnick's ludicrous profile of our "new political celebrity" in today's Times. "Mayor C. Ray Nagin is just plain different," she gushes. In paragraph 2, she splains why:

PURNICK (9/21/05): A former business executive, Mr. Nagin is a Democrat who lashed out at Republican Washington, likes to cuss, has begun treating the president whose administration he lambasted as a buddy and makes no secret of his differences with the state's governor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, also a Democrat. Mostly, he seems to be unapologetically making it up as he goes along, as he did on Monday when he (temporarily) defied official advice to slow the reopening of his city.

Clearly, we're supposed to be surprised when the mayor plays "buddy" with Bush, and when he acknowledges "differences" with Blanco. Absent-mindedly, Purnick forgets to mention some salient facts--the fact that Nagin supported Bush in Campaign 2000 and opposed Blanco in her 2003 State House race. She's too busy handing us pap like this:

PURNICK: But the mayor, a native of the city from a working-class family, is considered honest and strongly opposed to the old, often corrupt ways, yet limited by his city's poverty and its people's low expectations.

''If he had gotten those people out, it would have been shocking,'' said Alvin Gauthier, a science teacher and basketball coach at a New Orleans high school, as he waited in line here on Monday at the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief center.

It would have been "shocking" if he did have a plan! But so it goes as half-wits like Purnick pander to our newest celebrity. By the way--who considers Nagin "honest and opposed to the old, corrupt ways?" Simple-- the people Purnick quotes! Only one dissenter is included.

Cindy e-mails to note Kim Gandy's "Seeds of Disaster" (Below the Belt; NOW):

"There cannot be a crisis today; my schedule is already full." No, that wasn't George Bush, flying on to San Diego instead of dealing with the looming disaster that was Hurricane Katrina, but it might as well have been [okay, it was Henry Kissinger].

But this crisis didn't start with Katrina --the seeds were sewn by Hurricane Bush and his cronies long before the storm began gathering steam. And now they're using it to line the pockets of their rich cronies, who will get richer on the rebuilding efforts while those who need the work most will be lucky to get the crumbs.

For seeds, start with FEMA, which Bush demoted from cabinet-level status to a subsidiary of the new Department of Homeland Security in the post-9/11 consolidation of power. And the new department's tunnel-vision focus on terrorism, marginalizing the traditional preparation for natural disasters. Not to mention the last two FEMA directors, first a Bush 2000 campaign manager, and then his former roommate, neither of which was qualified for the job.

Want more Bush seeds? Remember when Bush flew over New Orleans and dipped the wing of Air Force One to take a look, declaring innocently, "Who'd have thought this would happen?" Who? I'll give you a few names: how about the Army Corps of Engineers, for starters? In 1995 the Clinton administration funded the start of a long-term levee rebuilding project - but Bush has cut funding every year. Or how about former Republican Congressmember Michael Parker, who in 2002 was forced out as head of the Corps of Engineers when he dared to protest Bush's funding cuts?

New Orleans' daily newspaper, the Times-Picayune, investigated the situation in 2002 and concluded, with devastating prescience, that a catastrophe was "a matter of when, not if." The paper followed up the report just last year, with another warning to finish the east bank levees, or the city "would fill up with the waters of the lake, leaving those unable to evacuate with little option but to cluster on rooftops...The water itself would become a festering stew of sewage, gasoline, refinery chemicals, and debris."

But really, who would have known?

Martha e-mails to note Robert Parry's "Bush & Media: Normalizing the Abnormal" (Consortium News):

What's been so surprising about the U.S. news media's coverage of George W. Bush's Katrina debacle is that leading journalists finally have broken with a five-year pattern of protecting both Bush and his presidency.

Until Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans -- highlighting Bush's weakness as a crisis manager, his skewed budget priorities and cronyism at key federal agencies -- the national press corps had been held in sway by a mix of White House spinning and the bullying of the occasional critic.

From Election 2000 to the 9/11 terror attacks to the invasion of Iraq, the press corps often acted as if its principal duty to the nation was to normalize Bush's often abnormal behavior, like the enabling family of a drug addict insisting nothing is wrong. While traditionally journalists play up the unusual, in Bush’s case, the media did the opposite.

This pattern can be traced back to Campaign 2000 when Al Gore became a favorite whipping boy of the national press corps, apparently still annoyed by Bill Clinton's survival of the impeachment battles of 1998-99.

As a article on Oct. 16, 2000, noted, "the national news media have altered the course of Campaign 2000 -- perhaps decisively -- by applying two starkly different standards for judging how Texas Gov. George W. Bush and his running mate, Dick Cheney, handle the truth versus how Vice President Al Gore does.

"Bush and Cheney have gotten almost a free pass. They have been allowed to utter misleading statements and even outright falsehoods with little or no notice. By contrast, Gore's comments have been fly-specked and every inconsistency trumpeted to support the media's 'theme' -- reinforced by Republicans -- that Gore is an inveterate liar." [For details, see "Protecting Bush-Cheney."]

Recount Battle

This media dynamic carried through Election 2000's recount battle as the national press corps treated Bush as the rightful claimant to the White House even though he lost the national popular vote by more than a half million ballots and was not even the choice of a plurality of voters in the pivotal state of Florida.

Zach e-mails to note Eric Ruder's "An Interview with Camilo Mejia" (CounterPunch)

Ruder: How did you come to be against the war?

Mejia: I was against the war from the very beginning--from before there even was a war.

Politically, it seemed that the U.S. government was forcing this war on everybody. There was no approval from the United Nations Security Council. There was no approval from the people here at home. And there was no approval from historical allies like Germany and France and the other big powers.

9-11 just seemed too fake as a justification--a lot of the actual hijackers came from Saudi Arabia and yet we were invading Iraq. And as far as weapons of mass destruction, North Korea was flaunting its weapons, and yet we were invading a country that we don't even know for sure has such weapons. The United Nations inspectors are saying that we don't know if they have weapons. So politically, it just didn't make a lot of sense.

A lot of people think I came to be against war during my stay in Iraq. I had been against war before that, just as many people in the military are against war, or at least against this war.

But many people don't have an understanding that signing a contract and wearing a uniform doesn't mean that we can't make our own decisions or that we can't, based on our political and moral beliefs, make the decision to refuse a particular war, or to refuse war, period.

If you truly disagree with something, there's no uniform, and there's no Uniform Code of Military Justice, and there's no order that can force you to do it. In the end, you always make your own decision.

I failed to understand that at the time, and even though I disagreed with the war from the beginning, I deployed. And then there's a transition. You go from being politically and impersonally and distantly against the war to being more morally and more personally against it, because this isn't just something that you're reading about.

You're not just reading about prisoner abuse, but conducting prisoner abuse. You're not reading about killing civilians, but you're killing civilians. You're not reading about occupation but you're occupying, you're raiding homes, and you're enforcing a curfew.

Jim reminds me to to note Richard Behar's "Project 'K' Meets Project 'A' - Part II" (Media Channel):

It was clear from the outset that, for Project K to succeed and be welcomed by today's media world, it had to be structured differently than Project A. In Arizona, all of the journalists worked under one editor, Greene, and all signed agreements that they would not publish details until the entire series was printed. (Greene says that only one member violated the deal, but to little harm.) Objecting to the idea of collective journalism, the Washington Post and the New York Times declined to take part. In fact, when the project was proposed for a special Pulitzer citation, the battle lines were sharp. Tom Winship, the late editor of the Boston Globe (and a former MediaChannel advisor) led the battle on the Pulitzer board in favor of the citation. Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post led the forces against it. "Bradlee said it would be a terrible thing because, if the prize was given, it would recognize collective journalism," recalls Greene, whose view was that the major newspapers engaged in collective journalism each time they ran an AP story. But Bradlee won the fight.

Despite the success of the Desert Rats, Bradlee's view didn't change very much. In 2003, after delivering the keynote speech at an IRE conference in Washington, Bradlee was questioned about Project A, as well as some comments he'd made in the 1970s about how investigative reporters could never work together amicably. "It seems to me that if you were going to work in a new town -- a totally strange town where you didn't know anybody -- and some big noise from Chicago or Washington or New York was gonna come down there, they were painting themselves in a very tough corner," Bradlee told the audience. "But I would have said that if Woodward and Bernstein would go down to some city in Mississippi, they’d eat 'em alive. And that takes some doing, but – look - I was wrong about what IRE was going to end up as, and I'm glad I'm wrong." The audience of investigative reporters applauded.

Last week, I raised the subject again with Bradlee, now 84 and serving as the Washington Post's vice president at large. He doesn't recall the Pulitzer battle, but says he can't deny that it happened. He has nothing but praise for Greene: "Greene's got a pretty goddamn good record, for Christ's sake, one that I'd be proud to have. The story [Arizona Project series] was good." Even so, he adds, "to have part in a 23-part series -- that seems to be unmanageable. I think it's impractical. And the people here would say, 'Bullsh*t – if it's worth doing, why don't we do it?'" Moreover, he dislikes the notion of loaning Washington Post reporters to serve on a cooperative venture under the command of an outside editor. "I'd still be worried about turning over editorial control," Bradlee says. "We'd never do that. On the other hand, we say we'd never do it, but we run LA Times stuff and Boston Globe stuff, and we run the AP, for Christ's sake.["]

Reminder to members. Entries will often be dictated in the coming days. (Due to this weekend's events.) If there's something you'd like noted or highlighted or an issue that's bothering you (though I can't promise anything will get dealt with prior to Tuesday evening), please be sure to use the private e-mail address. Most members are using it. I'm fine with members also using the public e-mail address but you need to realize that if you use the public e-mail address it may be Tuesday before your message is read. I'll be running behind in e-mails as it is, but as I get more and more behind this weekend, I won't even go to the public address. Kat hopes (hopes) to have an album review done in time to post for the weekend. (Again, that's her hope.) Ruth's Morning Edition Report will be up. We will have daily entries on the Times.

Third Party e-mails to note that The Green Party is one of the groups participating in this weekend's activism. We've noted NOW, CODEPINK and United For Peace & Justice and now The Green Party. We'll note another organization tomorrow (if you have a preference, e-mail on it the way Third Party did this morning).


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Click here to donate to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. ** "Dicated" corrected to "dictated" by Ava.