Thursday, November 24, 2005

Democracy Now: Native Americans, Jane Goodall; Robert Parry, Susan J. Douglas, Amitabh Pal, Danny Schechter ....

In England, dinner conversations revolve around that bombshell linked to the disclosure of more of the Downing Street memo which indicates that Tony Blair stopped George Bush from bombing Al-Jazeera's office. The White House dismissed the charge as "outlandish" yesterday, but today the Blair people are actively suppressing continued coverage through the device of a "D" Notice which warns editors they will be jailed if they publish the document. This prompted the former editor of a British magazine to surmise to me that there may be much more in that memo which would be even more embarrassing to Blair or Bush.
The Guardian reported:
"The attorney general last night threatened newspapers with the Official Secrets Act if they revealed the contents of a document allegedly relating to a dispute between Tony Blair and George Bush over the conduct of military operations inIraq. It is believed to be the first time the Blair government has threatened newspapers in this way."

The above is from Danny Schechter's News Dissector which Martha e-mailed about and asked if we could make it a "headline." Martha wasn't the only one with that idea. Trina (Mike's mother, identified with permission) found two items she suggested for headlines at Common Dreams. From Angela Brown's "Anti-War Protesters Arrested Near Bush's Ranch:"

A dozen war protesters including Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, were arrested Wednesday for setting up camp near President Bush's ranch in defiance of new local bans on roadside camping and parking.
About four hours after the group pitched six tents and huddled in sleeping bags and blankets, McLennan County sheriff's deputies arrested them for criminal trespassing. Many in the group held up signs, including one that said "Give me liberty or give me a ditch."
A dozen or so other demonstrators left the public right of way after deputies warned them they would be arrested.
The protest was set to coincide with Bush's Thanksgiving ranch visit.
The arrests were made by more than two dozen deputies who calmly approached the demonstrators in their tents and asked if they wanted to walk out on their own or be carried. Two chose to be carried. They were to be taken to jail for booking.
Ellsberg, the former Defense Department official who leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam war, estimated it was his 70th arrest for various protests since the 1970s.
"Those of us who finally saw through the Vietnam war saw through this war, and all the actions that were necessary to end the Vietnam war will be necessary here," Ellsberg said Wednesday before his arrest. "I think the American people will get us out of this (war)."

From Peter Popham and Anne Penketh's "US Intelligence Classified White Phosphorus as 'Chemical Weapon'" (Common Dreams):

The Italian journalist who launched the controversy over the American use of white phosphorus (WP) as a weapon of war in the Fallujah siege has accused the Americans of hypocrisy.
Sigfrido Ranucci, who made the documentary for the RAI television channel aired two weeks ago, said that a US intelligence assessment had characterised WP after the first Gulf War as a "chemical weapon".
The assessment was published in a declassified report on the American Department of Defence website. The file was headed: "Possible use of phosphorous chemical weapons by Iraq in Kurdish areas along the Iraqi-Turkish-Iranian borders."
In late February 1991, an intelligence source reported, during the Iraqi crackdown on the Kurdish uprising that followed the coalition victory against Iraq, "Iraqi forces loyal to President Saddam may have possibly used white phosphorous chemical weapons against Kurdish rebels and the populace in Erbil and Dohuk. The WP chemical was delivered by artillery rounds and helicopter gunships."

Trina notes that they once again implemented Mike and Rebecca's plan of having Democracy Now! on the television. She said everyone enjoyed today's show. Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Isolated Native American Communities Struggle in the Aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
Isolated and marginalized in normal times, today we look at the plight of Native Americans in the deep bayous of Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

A Conversation with the "Chimpanzee Lady": Jane Goodall on Animals, the Environment and her Life
We broadcast an extended conversation with Jane Goodall. She discusses her life, the environment, war, and her new book "Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating."

Zach e-mails to note the latest from Robert Parry. I think it may need a set up of some sort. (The piece in full goes over all points but we're doing an excerpt here.) Joseph diGenova, current attacker of Patrick Fitzgerald and all around Bush family praiser, is one of many characters whom history barfs back up. No, Poppy wasn't as inept as Bully Boy, but he was no saint himself. By denying reality and history (see Parry's Lost History), we end up with the same cast of characters still able to present themselves as upstanding. In real time, most reporters took a pass on addressing reality. Some, including a former Times reporter, have been "rehabilitated" (the man who couldn't see the truth of the crimes and slaughter in Central America is now hailed by some as an "environmentalist" whose opinion we're supposed to give a damn about -- obviously I don't). As reporters became "reporters" (early seventies to Reagan era), a lot got hidden. Joseph diGenova couldn't find anything untoward at the conclusion of his investigation and a lap dog press not interested in hard truths aided that. Bully Boy didn't just emerge overnight. His story is as much a story of the press. Hopefully, that helps set up Robert Parry's "Dissing Fitzgerald & Prosecutorial Politics" (Consortium News):

When special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the outing of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame is debated on TV, one of Fitzgerald's fiercest critics has been Joseph diGenova, who is described as a former independent counsel himself.
At times diGenova has been remarkably strident, sounding more like an angry defense attorney for George W. Bush's White House than someone who could have plausibly worn the title "independent" when he investigated an alleged abuse of government power by George H.W. Bush’s administration a dozen years ago. [More on that below.]
For instance, during a Nov. 16, 2005, appearance on Fox News, diGenova lashed out at Fitzgerald following
the admission by the Washington Post's Bob Woodward that a Bush II administration official had told him about the identity of CIA officer Plame in mid-June 2003. That apparently was before former vice presidential chief of staff Lewis Libby began peddling information about Plame's identity to other reporters.
Citing Fitzgerald's statement at an Oct. 28, 2005, press conference that Libby was then the first known official to begin talking to reporters about Plame, DiGenova argued that Woodward's admission justified the dismissal of Libby's five-count indictment on charges of perjury, lying to FBI investigators and obstruction of justice.
"By alleging that Mr. Libby was in fact the initial source, [Fitzgerald] publicly bootstrapped his case on that fact," diGenova said. "That is now totally false and it requires him now, under Justice Department guidelines, to seriously consider dismissing the case because you cannot indict when there's a reasonable doubt and I believe now that there is reasonable doubt about Mr. Libby's state of mind."
Though Fitzgerald had only said that as of Oct. 28 Libby was the first "known" official to tell reporters about Plame -- and that fact seems to have little bearing on Libby's alleged deceptions -- diGenova echoed the arguments of Libby's defense team that Fitzgerald's news conference comment was somehow important.
"I think this it is a very serious development for the prosecutor," diGenova said. "I can predict that he will be holding no further news conferences because he has just been hoisted by his own petard from the last news conference he held."
Even Fox News anchor Brit Hume was perplexed by diGenova's hostility toward Fitzgerald. "You are quite sharply a critic of him," Hume noted. "Why?"
"Because I believe that that news conference was a disgrace," diGenova responded.
DiGenova’s comments spread quickly around right-wing blogs adding more fuel to the animosity Bush's defenders are directing at Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney in Chicago who was named by the Justice Department to handle the Plame case in December 2003 because then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was too close to the leak suspects.
But another question raised by diGenova's intemperate comments is how a partisan Republican prosecutor could have been named independent counsel to handle a sensitive political investigation in 1992, when top aides to George H.W. Bush were implicated in a scheme to destroy Bill Clinton's candidacy by violating the Democratic candidate's privacy rights in a government search of his passport file.
Parallel Cases
In retrospect, the so-called Passport-gate affair and the Plame-gate investigation have many parallels, both involving White House abuse of its access to government secrets and calculated leaks to the press to undermine a political adversary. But the two prosecutors -- diGenova and Fitzgerald -- approached their duties very differently, with diGenova seemingly determined not to find wrongdoing in contrast to Fitzgerald's dogged strategy to get to the bottom of the mystery.
The two cases occurred at politically sensitive moments for the two Bush presidents.
George W. Bush's aides allegedly leaked classified information about Plame's CIA work in mid-2003 to undermine her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, because he had emerged as a leading critic of Bush's case for war with Iraq. Wilson had challenged Bush's claims about Iraq seeking enriched uranium from Africa, just as it was becoming apparent that Iraq lacked the weapons of mass destruction that Bush had cited as the principal justification for his invasion.

Erika e-mails to highlight Susan J. Douglas' "The Times Disses Women" (In These Times) where Douglas takes a look at some of the problems at the paper:

The New York Times has serious female troubles, and it's time to call them on it. Why are they are so intent on repeatedly using sloppy journalism to suggest that the women of America want to turn back the hands of time and re-embrace the feminine mystique? The paper has been reeling from serial scandals, in which the failure of its editors and management to scrutinize the claims made by its journalists has come under withering criticism. As one letter writer put it, "All Times bylines now must be considered suspect."
Amen, especially when bylines are reporting about women’s alleged repudiation of feminism. Over the past three years, the Times has trafficked in stories about accomplished women wanting to chuck work and a career in favor of diapers, mac-and-cheese, and deference to men. The latest salvo was the excerpt from Maureen Dowd's new book Are Men Necessary? which ran in the magazine under the title, "What's a Modern Girl to Do?"

For one thing, at forty-plus, stop calling herself a "girl."

West e-mailed to remind and to highlight. The reminder was from an entry last Saturday:

Rousing himself from yet another nap on his office couch, Ethan Bronner does a smear job on Robert Fisk's new book. Doing so requires playing dense, Bronner's up to the task. Further analysis? When Bronner throws out inflamatory statements with no backing, he doesn't deserve further analysis. ("Least informed" is a phrase Bronner tosses out that flies back to hit him in his smug, willfully uninformed face.) Go back to your couch, Bronner, you've earned your nap today. You, and the bulk of the paper, have a bad case of the Saturday blahs.

The highlight is Amitabh Pal's "The Times smears Robert Fisk" (Amitabh Pal's Weekly Column, The Progressive):

I'm not sure what the problem is here. I have the book in front of me, and the book is very harsh on the adversaries of the United States, too, including the Soviets, Ayatollah Khomeini, Osama bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein. In fact, when Fisk gave a lecture here in Madison a few years ago, he made it a point to show harrowing actual film footage of torture of prisoners in Saddam's Iraq so as to dispel any possible illusions about the nature of the regime. What Bronner seems to have an issue with is Fisk's criticism of Israel and the United States, criticism that he seems to dismiss a priori as illegitimate if it crosses a certain line. Maybe this isn’t too surprising. Bronner was dubbed by the vehemently pro-Israel Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) as "one of the most fair and informed foreign reporters ever to cover Israel" back when he was with the Boston Globe.
Bronner also chides Fisk for castigating Western reporting on the Middle East. But Bronner should know how awful it has been. He works at the New York Times, where Judith Miller was busy legitimizing the Iraq War by repeating Ahmad Chalabi's lies on the front page.
Additionally, it was the Times' uncritical acceptance of the notion of "objectivity," a notion that Bronner faults Fisk for questioning, that helped the Bush Administration lead the United States into the Iraq mess, since it hindered the paper from reporting the truth. The Times didn't even do "objectivity" well, since it failed to balance critics of the war with its proponents. And even though it was clear that the Bush Administration was trying to pull one over on the American people in the lead-up to the war, that fact got lost in the "objectivity" shuffle.

Pal has a lengthy critique of all that was wrong with Bronner's "review." I'd suggest members e-mail it to Bronner, but his couch napping schedule doesn't allow much time for reading (something made obvious by his "review"). (Megan wondered if my joke about the couch napping was just being silly or real -- Bronner truly does take naps on his office couch. Apparently working up the energy required for baseless trashing is hard work.)

KeShawn e-mails to note Kevin Alexander Gray and Mike Hersh's "Rep. Maxine Waters, the Real Leader of the Anti-War Caucus" (CounterPunch):

Since the beginning of George Bush's unpopular war against the Iraqi people, black female leadership has led the fight in opposing what has now become Bush's moral and political albatross.
Although Representative John Conyers (D-Mich) remains the dean of progressive politics in Congress, a coterie of black female lawmakers have emerged on the leadership forefront of opposition to the war. Many are familiar with Oakland area Congresswoman Barbara Lee's lone challenge to the war at the start-up and Georgia's Cynthia McKinney's constant vocal opposition to a variety of questionable policies, political tactics and the truthfulness of Bush administration officials. Now, Maxine Waters (D-Calif), in her leadership of a multi-racial coalition, hopes to assume a more public role in shaping and leading anti-war efforts in Congress.
The mainstream press has focused on Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), a decorated Vietnam War veteran and hawkish legislator who last week declared that the Iraq had become so bad that the United States needs to immediately withdraw troops. However, it was Waters' "Out of Iraq Coalition" in the House, that jump started House opposition at a press conference at the Longworth Office Building days prior to Murtha's announced change of heart. At her side were 19 other congresspeople, black, white, female, male, gay and Latino demanding that the issue of "how the United States got into war" be fully debated on the floor of the House.
Although the Sunday morning talk shows were quick to book Murtha as a guest, news of last weeks press conference got little notice. The "Out of Iraq Coalition" event, received literally no coverage from mainstream or national media outlets. Nevertheless, Waters, chair and founder of the "Out of Iraq" Congressional Caucus begun in June 2005, announced that the Caucus filed a discharge petition on House Resolution 55, authored by Congressmen Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) and Walter Jones (D-NC). If passed by Congress, HJ 55 would require Bush to begin bringing US troops home from Iraq.
A discharge petition is a House rule that permits members to bring to the floor for consideration a measure not reported from committee if 218 members sign the petition. The discharge petition, as drafted, provides 17 hours of debate and permits consideration of any germane amendments including amendments that would move up the date at which US troops would begin to return home.

Waters said, "The American people expect leadership from their elected officials and so far that leadership has been non-existent. We filed the discharge petition on HJ 55 in order to force the House of Representatives, the people's House, to debate the Iraq War. The President and the Republican leadership have refused to fully explain why we are in Iraq and when our troops will be able to return to their families. 'Staying the course' as the President suggests is an insult to our soldiers who have served so bravely in Iraq and to their families who worry every minute about their safety."

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