Monday, December 12, 2005

Democracy Now: Barbara Becnel, family members of CPT, Mel Watkins on Richard Pryor; Norman Solomon ...

House cleaning at the start.

As members know, and I'd guess even casual visitors, I have help with the e-mails. I have help in sending them out since I almost always save to draft to give myself time to make sure I'm comfortable with what I stated.

I've had that from the start and it's been noted countless times here.

In addition to that, due to the large number, Ava and Jess help out and am very glad to have them. Five days a week, they hit the e-mails. If it's something they feel I need to read, as opposed to be summarized, they move it to a folder in the accounts (public and private) they created call "Must Read." They are authorized to reply. (And Jess gives out all the "thank you, but no thank you" replies when a request for an interview comes in.) (I've broken that only once due to knowing the woman's work and respecting it. She was turned down as well, but I wrote that e-mail.)

In addition to them, Martha and Shirley and regularly help out. That started when we were doing a survey and it was noted then here and it's been noted from here since. I'm glad to have their help as well. And that's putting it mildly.

This isn't a surprise to members -- or visitors who visit more than once.

But I'm noting it again for a reason.

One reason is Jess wants something's noted here.

He's gone through some of the e-mails in the public account this morning.

The first thing he wants noted is an answer to a question of how did we find Ryan?

Jess: "Basic reporting skills."

Members will read an interview I did late last night with Ryan in this coming Friday's the gina & krista round-robin. He was interviewed prior for a piece intended for The Third Estate Sunday Review. (The piece was pulled.)

Ryan posted a comment at another site. (I can't imagine anyone not knowing what I'm referring to and I'm sorry to be vague.)

I say it was Kat who wondered what Ryan thought of last week's incidents. Kat says it was me. (Elaine says we were building on one another.) When we realized that Ryan might have no forum to respond in, we decided we'd provide a forum. That's when Dallas contacted to see if we needed help yet (as noted over and over at The Third Estate Sunday Review, Dallas hunts down links -- we were also fortunate enough to have him twice participate in news reviews). We explained what someone/s had thought and Dallas was ahead of us. He'd thought that either Thursday or Friday.

(If I got the print edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review, I'd just repeat what's noted there. If you have it and I wrongly credit something, go with the print edition. And advise me of the mistake and I'll correct it here. All pieces pulled from the online version did appear in the print version because the print version is distributed at a set time around a certain campus.)

Dallas stated he'd gone to the site and that it didn't display e-mail address the way ___'s old one did. So Jim immediately said we should contact "our" Ryans. We have several community members named Ryan one of whom is noted here as "Ryan." I doubted that any of them were the Ryan in question because, had they been, I would've already heard about it in an e-mail.

Jim was sure of it and began preparing e-mails to various Ryans whose e-mail addresses had appeared in the round-robins. I was saying, "It's not one of those Ryans" repeatedly until Jim suggested I think of something more helpful than imitating a parrot.

At which point I said if he posted at ___'s new site, he may have posted at ___'s old site. Which led to several people eagerly to dig into the old site. That wasn't going to result in anything, at least not for hours and hours.

My thought was, hardly an original one, Google: Typing in the old site's name plus "Ryan." That turned up seventy or eighty something results. (Again, go by the print version if you have it.) "Meg Ryan" and "Maureen Ryan" pop up in the first ten and I didn't even bother with those. But also in the top ten . . .

In December of last year, a Ryan posted online a comment/entry that mentioned that old site, Ad Nags and several others including The Common Ills.

Could it be the same Ryan? As with all the e-mails we sent out to possible Ryan's, we noted the topic that a Ryan had posted on. We didn't note where. Or when. This Ryan replied back that yes, he had posted on that topic and he'd posted on it at ____ . That was the Ryan.

Everyone was attempting they're own methods of tracking down the Ryan. I got lucky. (Mainly because I'm too lazy to pour over comments to a site with more than a year's worth of comments looking for "Ryan.") If we'd continued brainstorming with everyone pursuing their own avenues for locating, someone else would have found the Ryan. Or if Ryan hadn't replied in less than a half-hour (the print edition has the actual time) to the e-mail, someone else might have found another online clue to the Ryan.

But that's how we turned him up. Basic reporting skills, as Jess noted. We all thought about it and pursued any avenues we could think of. I'm sure, with more time, another would have paid off as well. I'm not sure if ___'s asking for Ryan's e-mail address or just curious?

Or maybe ___ considers him a "get." If so, we had to fight Anderson Cooper, Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric and Mike Wallace tooth & nail to get Ryan. We booked him into a hideway motel so no one else could track him down until after our interview first appeared. We advertised heavily during Larry King Live to promote our upcoming exclusive. We --

Have I run that joke on "get" into the ground yet? I'm making an effort to be "light hearted." (As is Jess, consider the above written by the two of us and the long delay in this being completed the result of our joint efforts.)

That's how we did it. Jess wants it noted that we can do basic leg work. We can and we did. That's how we located the Ryan.

(If Ryan becomes a member of this community, he'll have to select another name to go by. Both his first name and his last name are already in use. Ryan in bold above refers to our Ryan known at this site as Ryan. He is welcome to become a member of the community.)

Pentagon Accused of Shipping Coffins in Freight in Commercial Airlines
In other news on the Iraq war - a San Diego family whose son died in Iraq has complained to the Pentagon after it learned that the military transported their son's body to California as freight on a commercial airline. The coffin of Matthew Holley who died in Iraq last month was reportedly stuffed in the belly of a plane along with suitcases and other cargo.

Report: 20,000 Soldiers Hospitalized After Anthrax Vaccine
In other military news - an investigation by the Daily Press of Virginia has revealed that 20,000 soldiers have been hospitalized in recent years after receiving an anthrax vaccine. The paper accused the Pentagon of publicly low-balling the number of troops that required hospitalization in order to persuade Congress and the public that the vaccine was safe. The Daily Press also revealed that at least three soldiers developed the fatal Lou Gehrig's disease after receiving the vaccine.

Red Cross Criticizes U.S. For Hiding Prisoners
Meanwhile the Bush administration admitted it would not give the International Red Cross access to a group of prisoners being held at secret locations around the world. The White House maintains the men being detained are not prisoners of war and thus not guaranteed any rights under the Geneva Conventions. The International Red Cross criticized the decision.

  • Jakob Kellenberger: "We have said it's for us a major concern, the undisclosed detention, we want to have access there, to gather information and have access, and only once we have access to the people, we can in fact make a judgment in which legal framework we have to situate those people. Only once we have access to the people, we can know which legal framework is applicable to the person."

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

Headlines for December 12, 2005

- Car Bombing Kills Anti-Syrian Politician in Beirut
- Stanley Tookie Williams Scheduled to be Executed Tonight
- Torture Reported in Second Iraqi-Run Prison
- Red Cross Criticizes U.S. For Hiding Prisoners
- China Accused of Covering Up Killing of 20 Protesters
- 10,000 Gather to Protest in Hong Kong Outside WTO
- Report: Israeli Army Prepares to Attack Iran in March
- 20,000 Soldiers Hospitalized After Anthrax Vaccine
- Sen. Eugene McCarthy, 89, Dies
- Comedian Richard Pryor, 65, Dies

Los Titulares de Hoy: Democracy Now!'s daily news summary translated into Spanish

CA Supreme Court Denies Stay of Execution for Death Row Prisoner Stanley Tookie Williams, Fate Lies with Gov. Schwarzenegger

Death row prisoner Stanley Tookie Williams is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 12:01 am PT. Tuesday unless California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger intervenes and grants clemency. On Sunday, the California Supreme Court unanimously denied an emergency request by his lawyers to halt his execution. We speak with Barbara Becnel and play an excerpt of our interview with Williams from San Quentin death row. [includes rush transcript]

No Word on Fate of Four Kidnapped Peace Activists as Deadline From Captors to Kill Them Passes in Iraq

There has been no word on the fate of four Christian peace activists kidnapped two weeks ago in Baghdad. Their kidnappers had threatened to kill them by Saturday if Iraq and U.S. didn't release all prisoners in Iraq. We hear from family members of the kidnapped activists and others calling for their release. [includes rush transcript]

Richard Pryor 1940 - 2005: Pioneering Comedian Revealed Reality of African-American Experience to Wide Audience

Groundbreaking comedian, Richard Pryor, died in Los Angeles Saturday at the age of 65 of a heart attack. Pryor's body of work set the standard for American comedy while penetrating and revealing the African-American experience to a wide audience. We speak with journalist and author Mel Watkins. [includes rush transcript]

Tonya e-mails to note "Pryor used laughter to confront his -- and our -- demons" (The Chicago Defender):

He was a skinny kid with a foul mouth whose on-stage antics were only superseded by his shocking off-stage behavior.

But Richard Pryor was flat out a genius.

America has always had great comedians. Before there was a Pryor, there was Red Button, Milton Berle, Dick Gregory, Lenny Bruce and Bill Cosby. But no individual possessed the raw insight possessed by Pryor, who lived a life of turmoil and amazing success.

No one could imagine a child who began life in a whorehouse in Peoria, Ill. would hold us captivated with his amazing ability to evoke laughter while ravaging us about the race and class differences that have long separated America.

Also wanting to note the passing of Richard Pryor is KeShawn who highlights Earl Ofari Hutchinson's "Richard Pryor Wasn't Crazy" (CounterPunch):

Only twice can I remember an entertainer agitating audience members to the point that they stormed out of a performance or sat stone silent. Richard Pryor was that entertainer. The first time he did it was at a concert I attended on New Year's Eve at a small club in Hollywood. Pryor cut loose with a bitter, expletive laced, diatribe on black and white relations. He aimed his sharpest barbs at the whites. He needled, hectored, and browbeat them for their racial sins. Midway through his rant, the predictable happened. A trickle of whites made a beeline for the door. Pryor, nonplussed by the sound of their marching feet, didn't relent from his verbal tongue lash. The trickle quickly turned into a stamped. Even then Pryor didn't miss a beat he continued to hurl barbs at their backs.

But Pryor was a take-no-prisoners, equal opportunity baiter. Shortly after he returned from his racial epiphany trip to Africa in 1980, I, and other blacks in the theater audience at another Pryor concert, sat in stunned silence when he stopped the funny stuff, looked dead at the audience, and flagellated himself from the stage, and other blacks that routinely spit out the N-word with every sentence. Pryor could talk. He had practically elevated the word to a high art form. He called the word demeaning, offensive and insulting, and solemnly pledged that he would expunge it forever from his rap. The audience squirmed in puzzled silence. They didn't know whether to cheer or hiss. This was not the Pryor that many of us had come to know and love. The madcap king of irreverent, shock humor. The fall-out from his announcement was swift.

Pryor said that his fellow comedians, friends, and even some fans lambasted him for going soft, and for selling out. Still others accused him of being a black militant. He claims that he got death threats, and garbage thrown on his lawn. He took the heat from fans and friends not because he used the N-word, but because he had renounced it. A reflective Pryor was dumbstruck that a drug addicted, paranoid, frightened, lonely, sad and frustrated comedian (his self-description) could draw public bile for his simple, but very personal step toward asserting racial pride. Pryor's tormenting swipes at whites, and blacks, and his willingness to take criticism for it, was vintage Pryor. He was the artist that didn't just live on the edge, but sharpened the racial edge in his art.

Cindy e-mails to note Norman Solomon's "The Bogus Blurring of Terrorism and Insurgency in Iraq" (Common Dreams):

"You heard the president talk today about terrorism," Murtha told reporters at a Dec. 7 news conference. "Every other word was 'terrorism.'" Speaking as a lawmaker in close touch with the Pentagon's top military leaders, he went on to confront the core of the administration's current argument for keeping American soldiers in Iraq.

"Let's talk about terrorism versus insurgency in Iraq itself," Murtha said. "We think that foreign fighters are about 7 percent -- might be a little bit more, a little bit less. Very small proportion of the people that are involved in the insurgency are terrorists or how I would interpret them as terrorists."

Murtha threw cold water on the storyline that presents U.S. troops as defenders of Iraqis. He cited a recent poll, commissioned by Britain's Ministry of Defense, indicating that four-fifths of Iraqis now want the American and British forces out of their country. "When I said we can't win a military victory, it's because the Iraqis have turned against us," Murtha said.

Contrary to what countless pundits still contend, Murtha sees the U.S. presence in Iraq as a boon, not an impediment, to terrorism. "I am convinced, and everything that I've read, the conclusion I've reached is there will be less terrorism, there will be less danger to the United States and it'll be less insurgency once we're out," he said. "I think the Iraqis themselves will turn against this very small group of Al Qaeda. They keep saying the terrorists are going to control Iraq. No way."

Two things in the news -- At Stanford, hospital and university workers are striking. This is reported to be the first time they've had striked in unison. And the Gropinator has refused to grant Stanley Tookie Williams clemency.

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