Monday, November 07, 2005

Democracy Now: Peter Ford, Beverly Keene, Si Kahn, Elizabeth Minnich; Medea Benjamin, Gayle Brandeis, Alexander Cockburn, Christopher Hayes

Once Disgraced Iraqi Exile, Ahmed Chalabi, Returns to DC
The former head of the Iraqi National Congress Ahmed Chalabi is heading to Washington this week for his first official trip in over two years. He is planning on speaking at the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday and will be meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary John Snow. Before the invasion of Iraq, Chalabi had close ties to the Pentagon as well as some reporters including Judith Miller of the New York Times. He has been accused of feeding fabricated information about Iraq's weapons capabilities to US intelligence agencies and to journalists ahead of the Iraq invasion. Questions have also arisen over his close ties to Iran. Over the weekend Chalabi was in Tehran for closed-door meetings with high-ranking Iranian officials including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Last year the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded Iranian intelligence had used aides of Chalabi to pass disinformation to the United States.

Public Access TV Stations Plan Protest Tonight
And public access TV stations across the country are planning on stopping programming tonight in protest of new Congressional legislation that could lead to the elimination of public access television. At 9 p.m. eastern-standard time, scores of stations are planning to air one minute of snow. Anthony Riddle of the Alliance for Community Media said "this snowstorm is to remind communities what could be lost if new cable legislation before Congress is not fixed to protect the wonderful community channels we have all come to know and love."

Kenneth Tomlinson Investigated for Misusing Funds
The New York Times is reporting that Kenneth Tomlinson is now being investigated for misusing funds of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Tomlinson is best known for his tenure at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He resigned from that post last week. He remains however chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal agency that runs Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and other overseas government broadcasts. In recent weeks State Department investigators have seized records from the agency including e-mails between Tomlinson and Karl Rove, President Bush's chief advisor. Meanwhile the Financial Times reports the head of the U.S.-run Arabic satellite TV station Al Hurra has quit. Congress is looking into Al Hurra's financial affairs and programming and will hold a hearing next week.

Iraqi: "Americans Bombed Everything, Our Houses Are Destroyed"
Most communication to the Sunni towns of Husaybah and Qaim has been cut off. An Iraqi journalist in Husaybah told Al-Jazeera "The city is suffering a complete lack of all of life's basic necessities. There is no fuel and winter is upon us. There is no food and there are no services whatsoever, not even health services." The journalist said that ambulances have been unable to respond to emergencies because no movement is allowed in the city. "They destroyed Qaim, Americans bombed everything, our houses are destroyed, our children are victims and we want a solution," one resident told Reuters. "What do we have to do? We need a solution." Residents have been forced to flee the town on foot. The Associated Press reported that the U.S.-led forces warned over loudspeakers that anyone leaving the town in vehicles would be shot. The U.S. said Operation Steel Curtain was needed to stop foreign fighters from crossing the Syrian border. Meanwhile Sunni politicians criticized the U.S.-led attack. The head of the moderate Iraqi Islamic Party Mohsen Abdul-Hamid said "We reject all military operations directed against civilian targets because such acts lead to the killing of innocent people and the destruction of towns and cities."

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Rick, Bonnie, Terrance and Liang. Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for November 7, 2005

- 3,500 Troops Launch New Iraq Offensive Near Syria
- Iraqi: "Americans Bombed Everything, Our Houses Are Destroyed"
- DIA Warned in 2002 Iraq Had No Ties to Al Qaeda
- Bush Orders Ethics Courses For White House Aides
- Wash. Post Criticized For Not Identifying Secret Prisons
- Gov't Vastly Expands Gathering of Personal Information
- Public Access TV Stations Plan Protest Tonight

Urban Unrest Escalates in France as Riots Continue for 11th Straight Night

Urban unrest escalated around France this weekend as youths continued rioting throughout the country for an eleventh straight night. Over 3,300 cars had been destroyed throughout the country, along with dozens of public buildings and private businesses. More than 300 people have been detained. We go to Paris to speak with Christian Science Monitor correspondent, Peter Ford. [includes rush transcript]

Bush Fails to Revive Free Trade Talks in Latin America Amid Mass Protests

President Bush's trip to Argentina ended without any agreement on reviving talks to create a regional free trade zone. On Friday, as many as 40,000 demonstrators filled the streets of Mar del Plate. We go to Argentina to speak with Beverly Keene, one of the organizers the alternative People's Summit.

The Fox In The Henhouse: How Privatization Threatens Democracy

We speak with Si Kahn and Elizabeth Minnich, authors of the new book, "The Fox In The Henhouse: How Privatization Threatens Democracy" that exposes the damage privatization has done in several areas of society including, schools, prisons and the military.

Karen e-mails to note Medea Benjamin and Gayle Brandeis' "2000 Too Many" (CODEPINK):

Think back to the end of 1999. Millions of people were afraid of the coming New Year. 2000. Y2K. People were afraid that power would fail, that bombs would be unleashed at random, that chaos would reign in the streets. As it turned out, though, nothing much happened. Midnight struck, the calendar clicked over to a new year, a new decade, a new century, a new (some would say) millennium, and life went on as normal.

Now we have reached another 2000. Iraq 2K. Two thousand of our soldiers killed in Iraq. Our administrative power has failed; bombs are being unleashed, seemingly at random; chaos is reigning in the streets of Iraq and our global relationships have been torn asunder. This is the 2000 we should be afraid of. This is the 2000 we must grieve, honor and reflect upon.

This 2000 wouldn't have happened without the year 2001. Without 9/11. Those numbers gave our president the false justification to begin this war. Some 3000 Americans were killed on the attacks of September 11. Now almost 2/3 that number have been killed in Iraq. And that's not counting soldiers who have died after leaving Iraq, died from horrendous wounds and tormented suicides. It doesn't count soldiers who are left permanently disabled or those who survived in body but not in spirit, the broken souls whose lives have been shattered by what they did and saw.

And of course, that's not counting the uncounted, the Iraqis. We'll never know how many Iraqis have been killed at checkpoints, how many were caught in crossfires, how many were killed by roadside bombs. We'll never know how many Iraqi babies have died because of unclean drinking water from bombed out water systems, how many sick Iraqis died because hospitals were looted of critical equipment, how many Iraqis died because so many doctors have fled the country. Some say tens of thousands; others, like the survey in the medical journal, Lancet, say over 100,000. We don't know; we'll never know.

Also from CODEPINK, we'll note this:

Take Action: No Militarization of Youth!
November 17th-November 18th: Not Your Soldier Student Day of Action and National Stand Down Day: On the national “Not Your Soldier” Day of Action, November 17th, students will stand up to resist the presence of military recruiters on school campuses. In solidarity, on November 18th, adults will unite with youth and declare a “National Stand Down Day” to protest at local recruiting stations. Join CODEPINK by organizing a women's contingent during these powerful days of counter-recruitment action!

We'll note Christopher Hayes' "Symbol of the System: What do you get when you cross gutted labor laws with a culture of impunity? Why, Wal-Mart, of course!" (In These Times):

There's a moment in Robert Greenwald’s new documentary, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, that serves as a perfect metaphor for the entire battle between organized labor and the country’s largest private employer.

Josh Noble, an employee of the Tire and Lube Express division of a Wal-Mart in Loveland, Colorado, is attempting to organize 17 of his fellow workers into a union. As the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election approaches, we see Noble with a United Food and Commercial Workers' (UFCW) advisor going through the list of employees, discussing who's with them and who's not. Noble says it looks about 50/50. Later, the organizer cautions Noble that he may have lost the vote of his friend Alicia. "No," Noble says. "I've talked with her quite a bit. She's just kind of hard to read … I hang out with her on the weekends. But she’s definitely into it. She's real strong." Cut to: Alicia Sylvia in her car. Management's putting the squeeze on and she's now equivocating. We know what will happen. It's like watching David sent out to battle Goliath, blindfolded. Without a sling.

When election day finally rolls around Noble loses the election--17 to 1.

It’s not just that Wal-Mart has been winning the ongoing fight with the UFCW, which has been trying to organize the bulk of the company's 1.2 million employees for the last six years. It's that its dominance has been so absolute that even the small victories the union has scored have proved to be Pyrrhic. In 2000, when seven of 10 butchers in a store in Jacksonville, Texas, voted to join the UFCW, Wal-Mart responded by announcing that henceforth it would sell only pre-cut meat in all of its supercenters, fired four of the union supporters and transferred the rest into other divisions. (Three years later, the NLRB ruled the decision illegal. Wal-Mart is now appealing.) And in May this year, when workers at a store in Jonquiere, Quebec, voted to unionize, Wal-Mart simply shut the place down. "They wanted to send a message to every other store," says UFCW spokesperson Chris Kofinis, " 'Don’t you dare unionize.' "

Charlie e-mails to note Roland S. Martin's "The end of the socially-conscious athlete" (The Chicago Defender). We're pulling from the end of the column for the excerpt (the entire column is worth reading) and Martin is discussing the new NBA regulations regarding what can be worn on the court:

It would have been nice to see [Allen] Iverson and a few other players sit down on the court at the outset of the game on opening night, waging a quiet protest against the code. Maybe someone should have worn every outlawed piece of clothing and taken a fine. How about coming to the games dressed in kinte cloth or other African garb, daring [David] Stern to suspend them for dressing that way. My point is, don't just run your mouth, do something!

The weakness of athletes today is amazing. Then again, I suppose it mirrors that of society as a whole. This isn't a generation that is willing to put themselves on the line for a cause. Instead, they are more concerned about losing a couple of dollars than speaking truth to power.

Michael Jordan? He consistently said that it was his job to play basketball, not make social statements. The same for Tiger Woods. Charles Barkley would speak out, but he was such a buffoon that we never knew if he was serious.

About the only player on the horizon who is willing to use their celebrity to speak out on issues is Etan Thomas.

A member of the Washington Wizards, Thomas gave a stunning speech at the anti-war rally in Washington, D.C. in September, offering a rebuke of the Bush administration.

The 28-year-old Harlem native said it was his desire to take every member of the Bush administration, other prominent Republicans, and their GOP mouthpieces - Sean Hannity, Pat Buchanan, Bill O'Reilly, and Tucker Carlson - and drop them in the inner-city "and leave them there, let them become one with the other side of the tracks, get them four mouths to feed and no welfare, have scare tactics run through them like a laxative, criticizing them for needing assistance."

He went on to paint a picture (read the full text at that describes the wretched condition of the least fortunate in America, clearly showing a side of the country that we are too uncomfortable to address.

The 965-word speech is absolutely brilliant. But Thomas is no Duncan or Iverson. He doesn't have the celebrity of LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. But at least the man has a heart and knows that being a ballplayer isn't all about the money.

Maybe Sports Illustrated should forget about the rest of the prima donnas and make Etan Thomas their Sportsman of the Year.

He's certainly my Most Valuable Person.

Molly e-mails to note Jason Leopold's "Cheney Lied" (CounterPunch):

The indictment against Cheney's Chief of Staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, clearly states that Cheney and Libby discussed Plame's undercover CIA status and the fact that her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, traveled to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq tried to acquire yellowcake uranium from the African country in early June of 2003.

Yet the following month, Cheney and then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer asserted that the vice president was unaware of Wilson's Niger trip, who the ambassador was, or a classified report Wilson wrote about his findings prior to the ambassador's July 6, 2003 op-ed in the New York Times.

We now know, courtesy of the 22-page Libby indictment, that Cheney wasn't being truthful. Cheney did see the report; he knew full well who Wilson was. He also knew that the CIA arranged for Wilson to travel to Niger, and he personally sought out information about Wilson's trip to Niger, was briefed about the fact-finding mission, and even obtained classified information about Plame's covert CIA status. He also came to know one other important nugget: that Plame may have recommended her husband for the trip.
Cheney's public campaign and that of other White House officials to discredit Wilson and strategically lie about the Plame leak started on Sept. 14, 2003, during an interview with Tim Russert of NBC's "Meet the Press."

I'll note two articles at CounterPunch. First, Alexander Cockburn's "Storm Over Brockes' Fakery: Guardian Fabricates Chomsky Quotes." A friend (not a community member) e-mailed me on this. I think it's worth reading and an important article but can't figure out how to excerpt. The easiest nutshelling of it is that a writer for The Guardian attempted to smear Noam Chomsky and Cockburn's refuting the smear job. Also smeared in the article is Diana Johnstone who has "Srebrenica: A Response to Certain Criticisms of My Essay." Both articles are worth reading, both are hard for me to figure out how to provide a sample since they contain a great deal of quotes and excerpts.

I'll go ahead and try an excerpt of Cockburn. If the excerpt confuses, please read the full piece:

After some very childish bric-a-brac about the open packet of fig-rolls on Chomsky's desk ("is it wrong to mention the fig rolls when there is undocumented suffering going on in El Salvador?") it isn't long before [Emma] Brockes swerves into her predetermined trajectory, to the effect that

his [Chomsky's] conclusions remain controversial: that practically every US president since the second world war has been guilty of war crimes; that in the overall context of Cambodian history, the Khmer Rouge weren't as bad as everyone makes out; that during the Bosnian war the "massacre" at Srebrenica was probably overstated. (Chomsky uses quotations marks to undermine things he disagrees with and, in print at least, it can come across less as academic than as witheringly teenage; like, Srebrenica was so not a massacre.)

Read those sentences in bold type carefully. Brockes is claiming that Chomsky had, in reference to Srebrenica, put the word massacre in quotation marks, thus deprecating the idea that it was in fact a massacre. There's no other way to construe the sentences. Here's "massacre" in its quote marks and then in the next sentence "Chomsky uses quotation marks to undermine things he disagrees with" Next comes Brockes' summary of Chomsky's position, identified by use of the "witheringly teenage" quote marks: "Srebrenica was so not a massacre."

Now this is no little parlor game Brockes is engaged in here. For Guardian readers, a man who denies that a massacre took place at Srebrenica is not one who deserves to be voted the top intellectual on the planet. The opening headlines set Chomsky up, and the quote marks round the word massacre knock him down.

But there's no sentence in which Chomsky has ever suggested with the use of those quotation marks that a massacre in Srebrenica did not take place. There are passages, easy to find , in which Chomsky most definitely says it was a massacre. Brockes is faking it.

Brockes backs away from the set-up for a few paragraphs and retails the standard Chomsky bio. Then she swerves back, on the theme of Chomsky being asked to "to lend his name to all sorts of crackpot causes":

As some see it, one ill-judged choice of cause was the accusation made by Living Marxism magazine that during the Bosnian war, shots used by ITN of a Serb-run detention camp were faked. The magazine folded after ITN sued, but the controversy flared up again in 2003 when a journalist called Diane Johnstone made similar allegations in a Swedish magazine, Ordfront, taking issue with the official number of victims of the Srebrenica massacre. (She said they were exaggerated.) In the ensuing outcry, Chomsky lent his name to a letter praising Johnstone's "outstanding work". Does he regret signing it?

"No," he says indignantly. "It is outstanding. My only regret is that I didn't do it strongly enough. It may be wrong; but it is very careful and outstanding work."

Now we can see where those opening headlines were drawn from, and the context comes into focus. Chomsky's point concerns his expressed support for Diana (not, as Brockes has it, Diane) Johnstone's work. And as readers of our CounterPunch site will know from Johnstone's two excellent recent pieces on Srebrenica, Johnstone never for one moment says there wasn't a massacre there. She simply provides a factual historical sequence and context that many find disturbing, and politically inconvenient).

From what Brockes presents as her ensuing argument with Chomsky, it's clear that she doesn't know much about the Living Marxism/ITN affair, which in fact was an entirely separate case, which occurred well before Srebrenica. For the interest of CounterPunchers I append here Phil Knightley's extremely detailed discussion of the circumstances of those historically momentous news photos of the detention camp.)

Throughout the interview, incidentally, Brockes spectacularly fails to mention Iraq --perhaps because it would reveal a poor showing for Chomsky's detractors. She spends much of the final portion displaying herself as the advocate of journalistic truth against Chomsky, whom she takes care to depict as peevish and irritable. Her pay-off is of a cheapness and insolent vulgarity that brings to mind her line about Zephaniah braying like a donkey.

(Any member who checks out the articles -- or already has -- and wants to suggest an excerpt, please do and we'll note it here.)

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