Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Democracy Now: East Timor; Amitabh Pal, David Lindorff, Michael Massing, Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights

Hundreds of Families Flee US Offensive in Ramadi
Meanwhile, US forces are continuing with a major offensive in the Anbar city of Ramadi. Aid agencies say more than 400 families have fled the city since US forces invaded Friday.

Rice Secures New Military Base in Romania
From Germany, Rice went to Romania, where she announced a deal to open U.S. military bases in the country. The deal includes an airfield that Human Rights Watch has identified as one of the possible locations of a secret CIA prison in Eastern Europe.

Case Challenges Recruiting Access for Military on Campus
And the Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that challenges military recruiting on campus. A coalition of over 160 law schools is contesting the 1996 Solomon Amendment, which allows the government to deny financial support to any university that does not give military recruiters the same access to students it gives to other employers. The law schools are arguing they should only have to grant the military equal access when the military allows equal access to openly-gay recruits. The Supreme Court is widely expected to rule in favor of the Solomon amendment. Chief Justice John Roberts appeared to defend it during the proceedings, saying: "It says that if you want our money, you have to let our recruiters on campus."

The above three items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Nicole, Anne and Trevor. On Trevor's item, we'll be addressing it below (at the request of three members). Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for December 7, 2005

- Government Fails to Convict Palestinian Professor on Terror Charges
- German Citizen Files Rendition Lawsuit Against US
- Rice Secures New Military Base in Romania
- Tehran Plane Crash Kills Over 110 People
- US Security Consultant Kidnapped in Iraq
- Hundreds of Families Flee US Offensive in Ramadi

Jury Acquits Jailed Palestinian Professor of Several Charges in Major Blow to Bush Administration

A federal jury on Tuesday failed to return a single guilty verdict on any of the 51 criminal counts against former Florida professor, Sami Al-Arian and three co-defendants accused of helping to lead a Palestinian terrorist group. He remains in jail. We speak with his daughter and a journalist who has closely followed the case.

Thirty Years After the Indonesian Invasion of East Timor, Will the U.S. Be Held Accountable for its Role in the Slaughter?

Thirty years ago today, on December 7 1975, Indonesia invaded East Timor. Over 200,000 East Timorese lost their lives in one of the worst genocides of the 20th century. A recently-completed East Timorese commission of inquiry into human rights abuses during the occupation makes use of extensive documents that show the US government knew in advance of the invasion and worked behind the scenes to hide it from public scrutiny. The East Timorese government has asked parliament to withhold the report. We speak East Timor's ambassador to the UN and the US, and a professor at the National Security Archive.

Excerpt from intro:

Indonesia invaded East Timor almost entirely with U.S-made weapons and equipment. Newly released documents by the National Security Archive show the U.S government knew this and explicitly approved of the invasion. The formerly classified documents show how multiple U.S administrations concealed information on the invasion in order to continue selling weapons to Indonesia.

The documents show US officials were aware of the invasion plans nearly a year in advance. They reveal that in 1977 the Carter Administration blocked declassification of a cable transcribing President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger's meeting with Suharto on December 6, 1975 in which they explicitly approved of the invasion.

The National Security Archive handed over the documents to an East Timorese commission of inquiry into human rights abuses that occurred between 1975 and 1999. Last week East Timor President Xanana Gusmao gave the commission's report to the Timorese Parliament but wanted it withheld from the public. Opposition politicians and human rights activists have called for the documents to be made public.

  • Massacre: The Story of East Timor, documentary produced by Amy Goodman and Alan Nairn.
  • Jose Luis Guterres, East Timorese ambassador to the United Nations and United States.
  • Brad Simpson, assistant professor of history at the University of Maryland and a research assistant at the National Security Archive.

Extraordinary Rendition Under Fire: Lawsuit Charges CIA with Kidnapping and Torture of German Citizen

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a German citizen who says U.S. agents mistakenly kidnapped him and sent him to a secret prison in Afghanistan where he was tortured. We speak with British journalist Stehen Grey who helped expose the CIA rendition program of flying detainees to secret prisons around the world.

On the topic of torture, Martha e-mails to note Amitabh Pal's "Condoleezza fails to sell torture" (Amitabh Pal's Weekly Column, The Progressive):

Condoleezza Rice is in Europe on another charm offensive—this time to sell torture. Her efforts, though, don’t appear to be very successful so far.

Rice is taking several approaches in an attempt to save the Bush Administration’s reputation (or what’s left of it)abroad after a Washington Post story last month revealed that terrorism suspects are secretly being held in several European countries.

Rice simultaneously says that interrogation of these individuals is helping “save European lives” while denying that any torture is taking place and refusing to confirm that the detention centers even exist.

It will be a bit difficult convincing European governments that the Bush Administration does not use torture when even a former chief of the CIA and a former European head of state think that the White House is lying.

"We have crossed the line into dangerous territory," says Stansfield Turner, President Carter's CIA head, calling into question President Bush's truthfulness on the subject. "I think it is just reprehensible."

Turner had an appropriate title for Dick Cheney.

"I'm embarrassed the United States has a vice president for torture," Turner said. "He condones torture, what else is he?"

Joining in the chorus of doubt is the former president of Ireland and former U.N. human rights chief Mary Robinson.

Vince e-mails to note Dave Lindorff's "A Stunning Win for Mumia Abu-Jamal" (CounterPunch):

In a startling new development, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia has agreed to hear arguments on three claims by Pennsylvania death-row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal that his 1982 trial and state appeal were tainted by constitutional violations.

Any one of those three claims, if upheld by the three-judge panel, could lead to a new trial for one of America's most famous and long-standing death row prisoners, a Philadelphia-based journalist and former Black Panther activist who was convicted of the 1981 shooting murder of a white Philadelphia police officer.

The decision came as a surprise because the appellate court was only required to consider an appeal from the defense on a single guilt-phase issue-the claim that the prosecution had illegally removed qualified jurors from the case on the basis of race. That claim, while rejected in 2001 by Federal District Court Judge William Yohn, had been certified by the judge for appeal to the Third Circuit. Appellate courts do not have to even accept arguments from defense attorneys on claims that have not been certified for appeal by a lower court, so the fact that the judges agreed to accept the other two claims is a major victory for the defense.

Finally, on the press, Jonah e-mails to note Michael Massing's "The Press: The Enemy Within" (The New York Review of Books):

The past few months have witnessed a striking change in the fortunes of two well-known journalists: Anderson Cooper and Judith Miller. CNN's Cooper, the one-time host of the entertainment show The Mole, who was known mostly for his pin-up good looks, hip outfits, and showy sentimentality, suddenly emerged during Hurricane Katrina as a tribune for the dispossessed and a scourge of do-nothing officials. He sought out poor blacks who were stranded in New Orleans, expressed anger over bodies rotting in the street, and rudely interrupted Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu when she began thanking federal officials for their efforts. When people "listen to politicians thanking one another and complimenting each other," he told her, "you know, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated." After receiving much praise, Cooper in early November was named to replace Aaron Brown as the host of CNN's NewsNight.

By then, Judith Miller was trying to salvage her reputation. After eighty-five days in jail for refusing to testify to the grand jury in the Valerie Plame leak case, she was greeted not with widespread appreciation for her sacrifice in protecting her source but with angry questions about her relations with Lewis Libby and her dealings with her editors, one of whom, Bill Keller, said he regretted he "had not sat her down for a thorough debriefing" after she was subpoenaed as a witness. The controversy revived the simmering resentment among her fellow reporters, and many Times readers, over her reporting on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. In the Times's account, published on October 16, Miller acknowledged for the first time that "WMD--I got it totally wrong." Bill Keller said that after becoming the paper's executive editor in 2003, he had told Miller that she could no longer cover Iraq and weapons issues, but that "she kept drifting on her own back into the national security realm." For her part, Miller insisted that she had "cooperated with editorial decisions" and expressed regret that she was not allowed to do follow-up reporting on why the intelligence on WMD had been so wrong; on November 8, she agreed to leave the Times after twenty-eight years at the paper.[1]

These contrasting tales suggest something about the changing state of American journalism. For many reporters, the bold coverage of the effects of the hurricane, and of the administration's glaring failure to respond effectively, has helped to begin making up for their timid reporting on the existence of WMD. Among some journalists I've spoken with, shame has given way to pride, and there is much talk about the need to get back to the basic responsibility of reporters, to expose wrongdoing and the failures of the political system. In recent weeks, journalists have been asking more pointed questions at press conferences, attempting to investigate cronyism and corruption in the White House and Congress, and doing more to document the plight of people without jobs or a place to live.

Will such changes prove lasting? In a previous article, I described many of the external pressures besetting journalists today, including a hostile White House, aggressive conservative critics, and greedy corporate owners.[2] Here, I will concentrate on the press's internal problems--not on its many ethical and professional lapses, which have been extensively discussed elsewhere, but rather on the structural problems that keep the press from fulfilling its responsibilities to serve as a witness to injustice and a watchdog over the powerful. To some extent, these problems consist of professional practices and proclivities that inhibit reporting --a reliance on "access," an excessive striving for "balance," an uncritical fascination with celebrities. Equally important is the increasing isolation of much of the profession from disadvantaged Americans and the difficulties they face. Finally, and most significantly, there's the political climate in which journalists work. Today's political pressures too often breed in journalists a tendency toward self-censorship, toward shying away from the pursuit of truths that might prove unpopular, whether with official authorities or the public.

And that's going to be it for highlights today. There may be a link-fest tonight. I will note that William Yardley had a piece in the New York Times on Tuesday about a challenge to Joe Lieberman. Former Republican who lost his Senate seat to Lieberman went on to run for (and win) governor as an independent -- Lowell P. Weicker Jr.

Weicker told Yardley, "When you've become the president's best friend on the war in Iraq, you should not be in office, especially if you're in the opposing party."

Now, let's talk about the Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, No. 04-1152.

This is the case where the government is seeking to force universities (and divisions of universities, such as law schools) to allow military recruiters on campus. For those late to the issue, military recruiters come on campus to "hire." Many universities have policies forbidding outsiders from using their campuses to "hire" if there hiring practices are discriminatory. Obviously, the military's practices are (men and women who are openly gay or bi are not allowed to serve).

Last night, I was hoping someone else in the community would have grabbed the topic because the whole thing is something I'd prefer to avoid.

That's because it ticks me off and it's more than a court case. It has to do with how we end up where we are today with Ford pulling advertising (except for Volvo!) from gay and lesbian publications in what is obviously caving into pressure from the 'vangical voters on the religious right. (And it's also bad business on Ford's part. Disposable income issues alone go to that.)

A few have e-mailed regarding Anne's entry at Peevish...I'm Just Saying regarding military recruiters. Anne and I have different takes on it. I'm offering mine below, for those wanting an alternate view, please check out Anne's.

I don't see the matter as a "free speech issue" for the government. The First Amendment wasn't added to guarantee the government "free speech." The framers didn't worry that the government might suffer from a lack of free speech.

I'm not one who screams "Original intent!" but I also don't grasp how a branch of the government, carrying out the assigned policies of the government, is in need of "free speech" protection.

The government has no free speech claim in this case. A government rarely would have to make a case for "free speech." (Though whistle blowers on the government would make that claim.) As the ACLU notes the university is the one that's suffering "a violation of the Constitutional guarantee of free speech for the government to force itself into a law school's recruitment program."

So let's talk about how we got here in so short a time. It probably didn't help that we were fed lies (and many repeated them) about the mythical "values voters" and how they determined the election. (As we noted here when Adam Nagourney and others were pimping that falsehood, Frank Rich noted it was untrue in real time.) Instead of calling that nonsense at the time (as Rich and a few others did), the response was more likely to be "ha-has" like "F*** the South" which seemed so funny to so many.

The Democrat presidential ticket didn't run in the southern states. We noted that a year ago.
Bob Moser grasps that point but still wants to drag up the nonsense of "values voters" in an article entitled "Cornbread and Roses." I really have no sympathy on this topic.

In real time you'll see cautions against this nonsense (you'll see it here at this site) and how the falsehood would be marketed and sold and the impact it would have. It's been marketed and sold. And bought. Moser can tell you that:

Lesson Three is also about changing the turf: Democrats, who've now lost every state in the nation's largest region in two straight elections, have to take their message south. "Look," Edwards says, "the fact is, if you lose the whole South, you've got almost no margin of error in the rest of the country. But it's more than that. We have to make it clear we've got a vision for the whole country, not just blue states."
Edwards won't criticize his 2004 running mate, Kerry, who declared even before the Democratic primaries that he believed a Democrat could win without going south--and then tried to make good on that belief, pulling Democratic national money, along with the Southerner he tapped for Vice President, out of every Southern state but Florida. Bush ended up winning every Southern state--except Edwards's North Carolina--by a larger margin than in 2000. "If you were in a state like Alabama last year," Edwards acknowledges, "you didn't hardly know we were running."

But in "Lesson Two" he can bring up the myth of "values voters." That's why I didn't want to write about the current case, this whole nonsense gives me a headache. (Tracey, Marcia and Trevor requested that we have something up here on the Court case which is why this is being done now.)

The myth of "values voters" shouldn't have taken hold. No one outside Cokie Roberts should have been idiotic enough to repeat it. Katrina vanden Heuvel and others have questioned the myth from early on pointing out that if "v.v." did have a large impact on the election, how are you defining "values"?

But self-pleasing tales get repeated. And, as noted in real time, it pushes a myth that those who wanted to move the party to the center value. So now Moser, a reporter who's usually far more on the ball, is pushing the nonsense in a magazine that's done more to refute it than any daily newspaper.

But the lie gets repeated. Before you know it, it's a marketing plan from Faith Popcorn. And where does it lead? Ford caving to the 'vangical voters. Bill Gates wavering with Microsoft's support for gay rights.

Things that should never happen do because a spin is marketed and suddenly there must be a zeitgeist moment!

There's been no huge shift in opinions of the public as poll after poll has demonstrated. But repeating the lie of "values voters" allows spin to trump reality. Now Ford goes 'wobbly.'

This site started during that nonsense and members were very vocal about being offended by that "F*** the South" talk because they lived in the area or had lived there or had family there. In the four-part "Red" State series, we addressed that concern. We also addressed the concern of what happens when false myths are accepted as facts.

We're seeing that now. We see it with Ford, we see it with others. And America hasn't decided, "You know what, Bully Boy's in the oval office so I think all the sudden I don't like gays and I'm okay with them being discriminated against."

You saw it with some on the left (and "left") offering the most idiotic statements such as that we needed to respect and listen to James Dobson. No, we don't need to do that and before someone offers such nonsense maybe they need to find out a little more about him than his replies to soft balls from Larry King.

The government's arguing that they should be allowed to have military recruiters on campuses despite the fact that the military has discrimination written into it's hiring practices. The government will probably win (sadly). And it won't stop after that.

Another group or organization denied access will then launch their court case. This administration is not upfront in its reasonings about anything (war, Social Security, Plan B) but with each policy or attack, it seems we have to relearn that lesson yet again. We all need to wake up and be a little more mature. That doesn't require expertise in politics or any other field, it does require common sense.

Common sense was all that was needed to stop the myth of the "values voters." Common sense is what Katrina vanden Heuvel used when she noted how are values defined in this supposed polling. Common sense is also realizing anytime you see a gas bag (Tim Russert, Cokie Roberts, et al) telling you what an election means, you ask yourself how these insta-experts had time to look over polling data, let alone analyze it? (Answer, they didn't. If they're going by their "gut" they should have to say so and not try to couch it on something else.)

We didn't have common sense in great abundance when the "values voters" nonsense started. For every Frank Rich or Katrina vanden Heuvel, you had a hundred gas bags running with spin.
And this is where we are as a result.

It's depressing to me and I don't have sympathy for people who push lies. Moser probably believes his "lesson two" and, if so, who can blame him? It's been pushed as reality by the press for how long now? (And when Nagourney finally owned up to it being false -- in January -- no mention was made in his article that he'd had a part in pushing the falsehood.)

Recruiters, military or otherwise, aren't about "free speech." They're about employment. This isn't an "exchange of ideas." This is hiring. Colleges have a right to say: If you discriminate in hiring practices, you can't come on our campuses to hire.

No one's free speech is being silenced by colleges (or sections of them, such as law schools) saying no to military recruiters. The government, however, is attempting to state that because federal funds go to a university, a university must follow non educational guidelines that the government sets. This despite the fact that the non-education guidelines involve discrimination. Since higher institutions are supposed to be "higher," it's not surprising that their own policies would stress equality when the government's do not. The case argues that the government's desire trumps the universities policies and and desires to honor all students (regardless of sexual orientation in this instance).

In the Clinton era, this case would have seemed unlikely. In the Bully Boy era, it's almost the norm. That's partly due to the hubris of the Bully Boy and partly due to the fact that we keep accepting spin as reality.

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