Friday, November 11, 2005

Democracy Now: Jane Mayer, Arianna Huffington, Octavia Butler; Elizabeth de la Vega, Alexander Cockburn, Kim Gandy ...

Senate Votes To Remove Prisoners' Right to Challenge Detentions
On Capital Hill Thursday, the Senate voted to take away Guantanamo Bay prisoners' right to challenge their detentions in United States courts. The measure, put forward by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, would override a Supreme Court decision last year. The New York Times reports the amendment would nullify legal challenges currently filed by nearly 200 of the 500 detainees currently held at Guantanamo. Five Democrats joined 44 Republicans to pass the measure by a vote of 49 to 42. However the New York Times reports the victory may be short-lived as nine senators were absent, and are pushing for a second vote as early as Monday.

Palestinians Mark One-Year Anniversary of Death of Yassir Arafat
Meanwhile, Palestinians are commemorating the one-year anniversary of the death of Yassir Arafat. In Ramallah, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas led a ceremony attended by Palestinian and foreign leaders at Arafat’s old compound. Arafat died one year ago today at the age of 75.

Senate Orders Rumsfeld to Disclose Secret Prisons
Also Thursday, the Senate passed an amendment to a defense bill that mandates Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to inform Congress on US-run secret prison facilities in foreign countries

The above three items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Wally, Kara and Julia. Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for November 11, 2005

- Senate Votes To Remove Prisoners' Right to Challenge Detentions
- Johnson-Sirleaf Claims Victory in Liberia Elections
- Thousands Rally in Amman to Protest Hotel Bombings
- Union Leader Upsets Peres to Win Labour Party Leadership
- Palestinians Mark One-Year Anniversary of Death of Yassir Arafat
- Senate Orders Rumsfeld to Disclose Secret Prisons
- Events Held For 10-Year Anniversary of Ken Saro-Wiwa Slaying

Arianna Huffington on the Retirement of Judith Miller and Schwarzenegger's Ballot Defeat

We speak with columnist and author Arianna Huffington about the resignation of New York Times reporter Judith Miller and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's ballot defeat. Huffington says of Miller: "How can you be so cavalier as a journalist about reporting that is so fundamentally wrong, not about any matter, but matters of life and death, war and peace?"

A Deadly Interrogation: Can The CIA Legally Kill a Prisoner?

We speak with journalist Jane Mayer of The New Yorker as the Senate rejects demands for an independent commission on torture and the US military. We look at whether CIA agents are being allowed to kill detainees in their custody.

Science Fiction Writer Octavia Butler on Race, Global Warming and Religion

We speak with Octavia Butler, one of the few well-known African-American women science fiction writers. For the past thirty years, her work has tackled subjects not normally seen in that genre such as race, the environment and religion.

Eli e-mails to note an editorial -- "Democrats and the War" (The Nation):

Everything that needs to be known is now known: The reasons the Bush Administration gave for the American war in Iraq were all falsehoods or deceptions, and every day the US occupation continues deepens the very problems it was supposed to solve. Therefore there can no longer be any doubt: The war--an unprovoked, unnecessary and unlawful invasion that has turned into a colonial-style occupation--is a moral and political catastrophe. As such it is a growing stain on the honor of every American who acquiesces, actively or passively, in its conduct and continuation.

The war has also become the single greatest threat to our national security. Its human and economic costs are spiraling out of control, with no end in sight. It has driven America's reputation in the world to a historic low point. In the meantime, real threats suffer terrible neglect. These include more terrorist attacks, jeopardized oil supplies, rising tension with China, the spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and even natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. All are pushed aside as this Administration pours the country's blood, treasure and political energy into a futile war. In short, ending the Iraq War is the most pressing issue facing America today. Until it is ended, a constructive national security policy cannot be forged.

Americans are well on their way to a full appreciation of the dimensions of this debacle. In an October CBS news poll, 59 percent of citizens surveyed and 73 percent of Democrats now want an end to US military involvement in Iraq. But this growing majority has made its judgment with virtually no help from our nation's leaders. Most shameful has been the Democratic Party's failure to oppose the war. Indeed, support for it has been bipartisan: A Republican President and Congress made the policy, and almost all of the leading Democrats--most of the honorable exceptions are members of the House of Representatives--supported it from the outset and continue to do so. [. . .]

Somewhere the bitterly pro-war George Packer whines with fine tuners and other war hawks, "Why can't The Nation get the war lust on like us? Why? Why?" (The answer to his question would be "integrity.")

Eli notes that The Nation is leading and laying down a marker and hopes everyone will recognize and note that.

On noting, Lynda has e-mailed an item but I'm going to hold it until Monday. It's an op-ed and will give us (me) and excuse to note something that airs on Monday.

Cindy asked if we could note one more time Elizabeth de la Vega's "The White House Criminal Conspiracy" (The Nation):

The fifteen-month PR blitz conducted by the White House was a massive fraud designed to trick the public into accepting a goal that Bush's advisers had held even before the election. A strategy document Dick Cheney commissioned from the Project for a New American Century, written in September 2000, for example, asserts that "the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." But, as the document reflects, the Administration hawks knew the public would not agree to an attack against Iraq unless there were a "catastrophic and catalyzing event--like a new Pearl Harbor."

Not surprisingly, the Bush/Cheney campaign did not trumpet this strategy. Instead, like corporate officials keeping two sets of books, they presented a nearly opposite public stance, decrying nation-building and acting as if "we were an imperialist power," in Cheney's words. Perhaps the public accepts deceitful campaign oratory, but nevertheless such duplicity is the stuff of fraud. And Bush and Cheney carried on with it seamlessly after the election.

By now it's no secret that the Bush Administration used the 9/11 attacks as a pretext to promote its war. They began talking privately about invading Iraq immediately after 9/11 but did not argue their case honestly to the American people. Instead, they began looking for evidence to make a case the public would accept--that Iraq posed an imminent threat. Unfortunately for them, there wasn't much.

In fact, the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) in effect as of December 2001 said that Iraq did not have nuclear weapons; was not trying to get them; and did not appear to have reconstituted its nuclear weapons program since the UN and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors departed in December 1998. This assessment had been unchanged for three years.

As has been widely reported, the NIE is a classified assessment prepared under the CIA's direction, but only after input from the entire intelligence community, or IC. If there is disagreement, the dissenting views are also included. The December 2001 NIE contained no dissents about Iraq. In other words, the assessment privately available to Bush Administration officials from the time they began their tattoo for war until October 2002, when a new NIE was produced, was unanimous: Iraq did not have nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons programs. But publicly, the Bush team presented a starkly different picture.

In his January 2002 State of the Union address, for example, Bush declared that Iraq presented a "grave and growing danger," a direct contradiction of the prevailing NIE. Cheney continued the warnings in the ensuing months, claiming that Iraq was allied with Al Qaeda, possessed biological and chemical weapons and would soon have nuclear weapons. These false alarms were accompanied by the message that in the "post-9/11 world," normal rules of governmental procedure should not apply.

From the lies that got us into war, Elizabeth e-mails to note Lawrence R. Velvel's "Why Did Libby Lie?" (CounterPunch) which takes the topic and offers some possiblities worth considering:

And then there is also the matter of the 2004 election, a point made by the columnist Tom Oliphant (an unabashed Democratic partisan who nonetheless seems to have hit upon something here). Fitzgerald said -- one did not take him literally, but the point probably is broadly true -- that were it not for Libby's lies, he would have brought a case not in October 2005, but in October 2004. But a prosecution in September or October 2004 would have been based on the substantive criminal act of outing Valerie Plame Wilson. Remember, we are assuming that Libby -- and nobody else either, I would add -- did not lie, so the prosecution would not have been one for perjury and false statements, but one for the substantive crime of outing a CIA officer. This does not exactly comport with Fitzgerald's failure to charge a substantive crime against Libby , but it was what Libby would have had to fear had he not lied (and it could still happen, a point to which we return below).

A prosecution against members of this administration for outing Plame Wilson -- a prosecution that possibly could have been against Cheney too, not just against Libby, and possibly against Rove also, and maybe even against Bush as well -- would have been disastrous for Bush's reelection campaign. It likely would have spelled defeat for Bush and victory for Kerry. This result, Libby would have figured, had to be avoided at all costs. So he stonewalled by lying to the FBI and to the grand jury. By stonewalling through lying, he would defeat even the possibility of a prosecutorial action, or at least would delay any such possible action until long after the election, as occurred. The election, and the return to office of Bush, Cheney and company, was indeed a stake worth falling on one's sword for. Moreover, even if Libby were convicted long after the election, if Bush won there was always a possibility of a subsequent corrupt pardon (ala Bill Clinton and ala Reagan's pardon of Casper Weinberger, who covered up for that Administration, including the first George Bush). The possibility of such a pardon was hardly diminished when Bush spoke glowingly of Libby after the indictment.

So, when one asks why Libby lied, what motivated him to make up his cock and bull story, the likely answers do not seem so hard to fathom. Libby was covering up for Cheney, may well have been covering up for Bush too (whose small inner circle he was a part of), and very likely was saving the election for Bush, Cheney and company. These were stakes worth the candle. One should note, moreover, that if Libby lied in order to ward off a Kerry victory, this would mean that Bush was elected the first time by the Supreme Court and the second time because of lies and perjury. This would not speak well for our system, would it?

Zach also wants to note something from CounterPunch, Alexander Cockburn's "First the Lying, Then the Pardons:"

All governments lie, but Reagan and his crew truly raised the bar. From about 1978 on, when the drive to put Reagan in the White House gathered speed, lying was the standard mode for Reagan, his handlers and a press quite happy to retail all the bilge, from the Soviet Union's supposed military superiority to the millionaire welfare queens on the South Side of Chicago.

The press went along with it. Year after year, on the campaign trail and then in the White House, the press corps reported Reagan's news conferences without remarking that the commander in chief dwelt mostly in a twilit world of comic-book fables and old movie clips. They were still maintaining this fiction even when Reagan's staff was discussing whether to invoke the 25th amendment and have the old dotard hauled off to the nursing home.

Lying about Reagan's frail grip on reality was only part of the journalistic surrender. For those who see Judith Miller's complicity in the lying sprees of the Neocons as a signal of the decline of the New York Times from some previous plateau of objectivity and competence I suggest a review of its sometime defense correspondent Richard Burt in the late Carter years, as Al Haig's agent in place. Burt relayed truckloads of threat-inflating nonsense about the military balance in the Cold War, particularly in the European theater, most of them on a level of fantasy matching the lies Miller got from Chalabi's disinformers and trundled in print.

When the Reaganites seized power in 1981, Burt promptly threw down his press badge and went to work in the State Department as Director of Politico-Military Affairs a post previously held by another former Times man, Leslie Gelb, no garden rose but not a two-timer on the order of Burt. At least Miller didn't go and officially work for Cheney.

As Cockburn notes above (and elsewhere in the column) the problems at the Times go beyond Judith Miller.

Erika e-mails to note Kim Gandy's "We're On a Roll!" (Below the Belt, NOW):

We're on a roll! The last two weeks have been full of good news, from winning ballot measures in California and Maine and defeating ultra-conservative gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey and Virginia, to forcing the Republican leadership to repeatedly delay the vote on their slash-and-burn budget because they can't get enough votes to pass it. NOW activists had a role in all of those victories, and I'm grateful for your tireless activism. Today, even as I write this, NOW leaders from nearly a dozen states are on Capitol Hill meeting with their senators and staff about why we oppose the nomination of Sam Alito. So if you haven't met with your own senators to urge them to oppose Alito, NOW is the time -- and we'll help!

But there's also disturbing news about our country's international behavior. Talk about hitting "below the belt," W is on the defensive these days after a news leak that the CIA has secret "black spot" prisons all across the world, which are violating human rights left and right. The resulting Bush rhetoric on the use of torture has really been beyond the pale. His speeches have amounted to an unsettling paradox: the U.S. does not torture, and therefore the Senate should not pass a ban on our use of torture. Excuse me?

It sounds straight out of "Catch-22," classic Vietnam-era "waging war to create peace" rhetoric, and it is just as backwards and wrong now as it was then. Maybe it's time to bring back some anti-Vietnam-war-style graffiti -- Molly Ivins offers a good one: "Is fighting for peace like having sex for chastity?"

Vic e-mails wondering why PBS' The Charlie Rose Show, sponsored by a number of corporations and recipient of tax dollas while airing on public television, charges the public to listen online?

Good question. Bill Moyers' NOW didn't charge for their online services. (I have no idea if the current NOW does or not.) Considering that the program's been paid for by the public and by corporations, my feelings are the shows archives should be free to the public to watch, listen or read online. We're not talking about huge production values. I haven't watched the snore inducing show in some time but I'm not remembering, for instance, The Charlie Rose Show Dancers! or anything other than the bare set. How greedy are the people involved? (The Times has an editorial on the end of free TV today. Members know my feelings on that topic.)

NOW is a show with expenses. It does investigative reporting. A chat and chew has very little overhead (other than paying the gasbag host). I don't think there's any excuse for The Charlie Rose Show to not make some form of an archive (transcript, audio or video) available online for free to the public.

We'll note this:

This week on NOW:

The costs of gas and home heating oil are near record highs, and so are profits for the major players in the oil industry. Do hurricanes and the cost of crude oil account for sharp price increases, or is Big Oil making big money by driving prices up? NOW's Maria Hinojosa investigates the real reasons behind skyrocketing oil prices and asks if a concerted industry strategy has rigged the system.

Plus, Secret justice. A David Brancaccio essay on the secret prisons of the war on terror.

I stopped watching as Bill Moyers departure approached. That's not an insult to the current version of NOW, I just don't have time for TV watching and Moyers departure depressed me. Ava and I watch at least one show a week andd that can be a struggle to find time for. (And, in fact, we intended to watch two shows in case there was nothing to say about the first one but I didn't have time and I doubt I will find it. We'll be going with the Tuesday night show on CBS starring Mark Harmon.) But NOW was a great show and hopefully still is. If anyone's looking for a news program to watch this weekend, skip the Chat & Chews and watch NOW. (And because I don't believe in making a suggestion that I won't consider myself, I'll record NOW but I doubt I'll have time to watch.)

Lastly, Michael found this in a Harper's e-mail and wanted to highlight it because he agrees with Wally that not enough attention is being paid to Florida:

I am shocked to say the least that the only information offered on the category 3 hurricane that slammed into the southeastern coast of Florida was a quick blurb 2 updates ago stating that "hurricane Wilma struck Florida and left millions without power".
As a 20 year resident of South Florida, I am not exaggerating when I say that Hurricane Wilma was the worst hurricane to hit our vast area (with extensive damage and power outages in 3 of the state's largest counties -- Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach). There is, in fact, more damage caused by this storm than by the category 5 Hurricane Andrew 13 years ago. Over 3 million people were left out of power immediately following the storm and a week later, over 700,000 are still powerless. Residents have waited in lines as long as 5 1/2 hours to get as little as 5 gallons of gas. Grocery stores were left empty for over a week. Neighborhoods were left looking as if bombs had been dropped there with all trees having been twisted in half and uprooted, aluminum screening enclosures having been ripped off of houses and wrapped around cars and thrust through roofs and windows, and major roof damage being incurred to most homes. Children in Miami-Dade and Broward County are now entering a second week out of school. Small businesses are still shut down,with financial losses still to be seen. Several major department stores will be closed for the rest of the year due to damage, costing hundreds of people their jobs just prior to the holiday season.
All of this, and I am not even mentioning the massive financial losses that the tourist industry (our most profitable industry in this area) is suffering and will continue to suffer for months to come. I get the feeling that because the aftermath and images (or lack thereof) from this storm pale in comparison to that of Katrina (a truly horrific storm) that the plight of South Florida is not being deemed newsworthy. I assure you that it has had a major effect on the residents of South Florida. More news has been generated concerning Wilma's affect in Mexico than the affect it had on our own US residents.
I hope that in the future, regardless of the proximity to other major disasters, that a reasonable amount of reporting time will be granted to those found in similar plights.

Michael adds that if anyone wants to sign up for Harper's weekly e-mails, the address is

And the e-mail address for this site is

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