Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Democracy Now: Studs Terkel; Stephen J. Fortunato Jr., Anne (Peevish), Betty (Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man), Naomi Klein, Arianna Huffington

Bush Fails to Answer Questions About CIA Leak
At the same press conference President Bush was questioned about the ongoing investigation into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. On Sunday, ABC News host George Stephanopoulos said his sources told him that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were involved in the discussions about Plame. Meanwhile the Washington Post has reported special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald may be planning to bring criminal conspiracy charges against White House officials, possibly Karl Rove and Lewis Libby. On Tuesday Bush refused to answer whether he had discussed the case with Rove or Libby.
New Photos Released of Hanging Of Gay Iranian Teens
This news from Iran - the Iran Student News Association has just released a new photo showing the hanging of two gay teenagers, ages 18 and 17. Independent journalist Doug Ireland reports the boys were charged with rape but that they were actually the victims of an increasing crackdown on the country's gay population. Prior to their execution the boys were held in prison for over a year and tortured. Ireland reports this anti-gay crackdown is part of the crusade against "moral corruption" promised by Iran's newly-elected President Ahmadinejad in his election campaign. Last month Ireland interviewed a 22-year-old gay Iranian man who is seeking asylum in Turkey. While in Iranian police custody, he was beaten and tortured, threatened with death, and lashed 100 times
Bush Defends Pick of Harriet Miers
In Washington, President Bush held a daytime press conference on Monday and spent most of the time defending his selection of Harriet Miers as his nominee to the Supreme Court. The selection of Miers has been widely criticized by conservatives because so little is known about her personal politics. She has never served as a judge. Miers Is "On The Extreme End of the Anti-Choice Movement" Later in the press conference, President Bush said he did not recall ever sitting down with Miers to discuss her view on abortion. But a former colleague of Miers' says her stance on abortion is clear. Lorlee Bartos - who ran Miers 1989 campaign for Dallas City Council - said "She is on the extreme end of the anti-choice movement. I think Harriet's belief was pretty strongly felt. I suspect she is of the same cloth as the president."
The above three items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Joan, Domingo and ErikaErika notes that the quote in the the item she picked (last one) is very clear about Miers' alleged stance on abortion.  (That's the the woman the Times apparently couldn't get a concrete quote from this morning.) Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):
Headlines for October 5, 2005

- Iraq Assault in Western Iraq Continues
- U.S. Col. Says "Mortar Fire" Are the Sounds of Peace
- Iraqi Parliament Reverses Rule Changes on Constitution
- Bush Defends Pick of Harriet Miers
- Bill O'Reilly Calls For Assassination of Syrian President
- New Photos Released of Hanging Of Gay Iranian Teens
- Press Watchdog Calls for U.S. To Release Journalists in Iraq
Legendary Broadcaster and Author Studs Terkel on President Bush, Mahalia Jackson, James Baldwin, Louis Armstrong, the Rebuilding of New Orleans and What Gives Him Hope

He's one of the great social historians of our time. He prefers to call himself a "guerrilla journalist with a tape recorder." We're talking about legendary radio broadcaster and author, Studs Terkel.

Born in 1912 in New York City, Studs Terkel moved with his family to Chicago at the age of ten where he spent most of his life. Over the years he has worked as an activist, a civil servant, a labor organizer, a radio DJ and a television actor. But he is best known as a Chicago radio personality and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

For 45 years, Studs Terkel spent an hour each weekday on his nationally syndicated radio show interviewing the famous and the not-so-famous. With his unique style, he created portraits of everyday life in America and chronicled the changing times of the 20th century. [includes rush transcript - partial]

Trey e-mails Stephen J. Fortunato Jr.'s "Judging Harriet Miers" (In These Times):

Like John Roberts, Miers spent her professional career representing the interests of mega-corporations until she became a counselor to a right-wing administration. Like Roberts, her record is devoid of any work on behalf of poor people accused of crime or groups fighting for their civil rights (in a 1999 survey of the country's largest law firms, The American Lawyer ranked the 206-lawyer firm headed by Miers as 53rd out of 69 comparably sized offices in terms of the amount of pro bono work provided to the community). And like Roberts she passes Bush's unconstitutional prerequisite that federal judges have a religious faith. Her former pastor told The New York Times, "Harriet has placed her faith in Jesus." This type of religiosity has been required by Bush of all his appointees, though Article VI of the United States Constitution unambiguously provides that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

Even though the confirmation hearings have yet to begin, Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate, has given his imprimatur to Miers because she has a background as a trial lawyer. But the more important question is: for whom did she do battle in courtroom? Like Roberts, Miers carried briefs for the multinationals, not for poor people, not for persons facing the death penalty, and not for groups seeking judicial protection to exercise their civil rights. A background consisting of something more socially useful than assisting the rich to get richer becomes especially important when one considers that the Supreme Court hears only 90 cases annually that result in full opinions, and 25 percent of these regularly involve criminal law. The Supreme Court is in no small way responsible for the fact that our nation’s prisons house more then 2 million people, 50 percent of whom are disproportionately black and Hispanic, and many of whom are actually innocent according to recent studies. White, conservative, corporate attorneys will not fix this national scandal any time soon.

This relentless forward march of conservatives onto the federal bench has succeeded because Democrats, and the few Republican moderates left in the Senate, have been unable to craft cogent and comprehensible arguments to rebut the right’s mantra that a judge's sole responsibility is to apply the law as written and not legislate from the bench. Bush draped this mantra around Harriet Miers' shoulders at her nomination ceremony, just as he did earlier for Chief Justice Roberts. The mantra, however false, has served Bush well. The Democrats and their allies outside the Congress remain transfixed by the Republican’s constant din about "activist judges."

Sara e-mails to note Anne's "Ask the Experts" (Peevish...I'm Just Saying):

Maybe it's not so much that Bush is a rabid war-monger as that he ca'tn resist any opportunity to play with his toy soldiers? I mean, why else would he want to bring in the military in the case of an avian (bird) flu outbreak?

Also? Is he under the impression that we have an unlimited number of soldiers? Because I'm pretty sure that Katrina amply illustrated otherwise, since we're now using the National Guard as 'soldiers'.

And while we're talking soldiers, why isn't the media making a bigger deal out of the Bush Administration's increasingly frantic attempts to protect what they think of as their right to torture people?

As long as we're talking playing 'soldiers', what was Meirs role in covering up Bush's pathetic National Guard record, anyhow?

(I know I haven't blogged Meirs' nomination to the Supreme Court but there is a limit, even for me, to the number of things I feel comfortable ranting about from a position of extreme ignorance. From my perspective, being a crony of Bush's is a no-win strike against her, but I'll let the experts battle it out.)


Now, attention please:




A front-page article yesterday about new election rules in Iraq that seem intended to ensure voter approval of the constitution in the Oct. 15 referendum misstated the size of the majority needed in the National Assembly to amend the transitional law, a document written under the American occupation in 2003 that remains the supreme law of Iraq pending a constitution. It is three-fourths of the National Assembly, not two-thirds. (Go to Article)

The above is from this morning's New York Times -- yesterdays "Other items" here (by me) contains the following summary:
Of course, fixing the vote could also include attacking Sunni dominant areas in the lead up to the election. But here's the change, two-thirds of the registered electorate were needed for the charter to pass. Shiites and Kurds have altered that. It only needs two-thirds of the vote of people turning out to vote. So anything that suppresses the Sunni vote helps the charter. (Worth reports that there is talk of a Sunni boycott.)
I'll add the correction to yesterday's entry (hopefully tonight)
Let's note Betty's latest, "The Lies Thomas Friedman tells" (Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man)
We ended up in an "exotic land." That's what Thomas Friedman told me anyway. I'm not as dumb as I used to be and saw the now-entering-New-Jersey signs.

But it was Asbury Park and who can complain, right?

Thomas Friedman parked in handicapped and while I doubt few would dispute that as an apt description of his mental condition, Billy's car had no handicap sticker. Thomas Friedman waves his hands to indicate he could care less and we were walking around taking in the sights.

It was a little too crowded on the boardwalk and Thomas Friedman was attracting stares.

"I'm such a rock star," he whispered to me.

I'm not sure it was recognition that attracted the stares. Myself, I think it had more to do with
his silk shorty robe which he wore with flip flops and a lime green speedo. The speedo Thomas Friedman insisted upon calling a "bananna hammock" though I myself felt the more accurate term would be "crayola caddy."

So we ended up at the Jersey shore. Thomas Friedman was running off down the beach as I spread the beach towel and pulled out the latest Terry McMillan. Stella married a gay guy -- who knew?
Dale e-mails to ask that we note Naomi Klein's "Purging the Poor" (The Nation):

Listening to Drennen enthuse about the opportunities opened up by the storm, I was struck by his reference to African-Americans in New Orleans as "the minority community." At 67 percent of the population, they are in fact the clear majority, while whites like Drennen make up just 27 percent. It was no doubt a simple verbal slip, but I couldn't help feeling that it was also a glimpse into the desired demographics of the new-and-improved city being imagined by its white elite, one that won't have much room for Nyler or her neighbors who know how to fix houses. "I honestly don't know and I don't think anyone knows how they are going to fit in," Drennen said of the city's unemployed.

New Orleans is already displaying signs of a demographic shift so dramatic that some evacuees describe it as "ethnic cleansing." Before Mayor Ray Nagin called for a second evacuation, the people streaming back into dry areas were mostly white, while those with no homes to return to are overwhelmingly black. This, we are assured, is not a conspiracy; it's simple geography--a reflection of the fact that wealth in New Orleans buys altitude. That means that the driest areas are the whitest (the French Quarter is 90 percent white; the Garden District, 89 percent; Audubon, 86 percent; neighboring Jefferson Parish, where people were also allowed to return, 65 percent). Some dry areas, like Algiers, did have large low-income African-American populations before the storm, but in all the billions for reconstruction, there is no budget for transportation back from the far-flung shelters where those residents ended up. So even when resettlement is permitted, many may not be able to return.

As for the hundreds of thousands of residents whose low-lying homes and housing projects were destroyed by the flood, Drennen points out that many of those neighborhoods were dysfunctional to begin with. He says the city now has an opportunity for "twenty-first-century thinking": Rather than rebuild ghettos, New Orleans should be resettled with "mixed income" housing, with rich and poor, black and white living side by side.

What Drennen doesn't say is that this kind of urban integration could happen tomorrow, on a massive scale. Roughly 70,000 of New Orleans' poorest homeless evacuees could move back to the city alongside returning white homeowners, without a single new structure being built. Take the Lower Garden District, where Drennen himself lives. It has a surprisingly high vacancy rate--17.4 percent, according to the 2000 Census. At that time 702 housing units stood vacant, and since the market hasn't improved and the district was barely flooded, they are presumably still there and still vacant. It's much the same in the other dry areas: With landlords preferring to board up apartments rather than lower rents, the French Quarter has been half-empty for years, with a vacancy rate of 37 percent.


Jobi e-mails to note Arianna Huffington "'Progress' in Iraq: Do the Numbers Add Up?" (The Huffington Post):
At his first press conference in four months, President Bush claimed, "We're making good progress in Iraq." What exactly does that mean? How do we define progress? Well, when it comes to understanding how the war is going, it's all about the numbers. According to the president, we have a "dual track strategy" for success -- one track being the military progress, one track being political progress.
Let's crunch the numbers on each.

On the military track, the president declared during his Saturday radio address that Iraqi security forces had "more than 100 battalions operating throughout the country". Sounds impressive. On Tuesday, he told reporters "there are over 80 army battalions fighting alongside coalition troops… There are over 30 Iraqi battalions in the lead". Okay, less impressive, but still notable.

This morning, after a meeting with Rummy and Generals Pace and Petraeus, he busted out some more numbers, saying "I was also pleased to hear there are 3,000 Iraqi forces" taking part in an offensive in western Iraq, adding "Over 30 percent of the Iraqi troops are in the lead on these offensive operations". Let’s see, 30 percent of 3,000… Let me get my calculator…

The e-mail address for this site is

Yahoo! for Good
Click here to donate to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.