Thursday, December 29, 2005

Democracy Now: Russell Mokhiber, Reverend Billy; Katha Pollitt, John R. MacArthur, Kevin Zeese

US Air Strike Kills 10 Iraqis in Hawija
Elsewhere in Iraq, U.S. fighter jets have killed ten people in a bombing of the northern village of Hawija. The military said it launched the attacks after several men were spotted planting roadside bombs. The Washington Post reported earlier this week the number of monthly U.S. airstrikes has increased almost fivefold this year, from roughly 25 in January to 120 last month.

NSA Website Capable of Tracking Web Activity of Visitors
In other news, the Associated Press is reporting the National Security Agency has been using files that can track the web surfing activity of visitors to its website. The NSA says the tracking files -- known as "cookies" -- were a mistake and have been removed. Under federal law, government agencies are forbidden from using "cookie" files unless a senior official authorizes them and their use is disclosed in the agency's written privacy policy. The news comes as the Bush administration continues to defend its authoritization of an NSA program to eavesdrop on Americans and foreign nationals without court-approved warrants.

Pentagon Says Un-Credited Pro-US News Sites Legal
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is saying a military program to fund news websites that pays journalists to promote US policies in Europe and Africa does not violate federal law. This according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. A review was ordered in February following disclosures the US was paying Virginia contractor Anteon to run websites without proper attribution to promote US policies in the Balkans and the Africa's Maghreb region.
Meanwhile, an inquiry continues into the Washington, D.C.-based Pentagon contractor the Lincoln Group over the disclosure it planted pro-military stories in Iraqi newspapers. A Pentagon official who supports the program told the Times : "We have never been outgunned in any battle, but we are constantly being outmedia-ed. These are things we should be doing more of."
Ex-Agent: Clinton Started Rendition Operations
In other news, a former US counterterrorism agent is claiming the CIA’s rendition program to capture terror suspects and question them on foreign soil was launched under former President Bill Clinton. In an interview with the German newspaper Die Zeit, Michael Scheuer, a 22-year CIA veteran who resigned last year, said : "President Clinton, his national security advisor Sandy Berger and his terrorism advisor Richard Clarke ordered the CIA in the autumn of 1995 to destroy Al-Qaeda. We asked the president what we should do with the people we capture. Clinton said 'That's up to you'."
In February, investigative journalist Jane Meyer reported the Clinton administration carried out rendition operations as early as 1995. Meyer reported US agents helped kidnap wanted Egyptian terror suspect Qassem in Zagreb in Croatia. He was sent back to Egypt, where he was reportedly executed.
The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Brenda, Sam, Trevor and Brady. Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for December 29, 2005

- Ex-Enron Chief Accountant Pleads Guilty In Blow To Former CEOs
- UN: Iraq Vote "Transparent and Credible"
- US Air Strike Kills 10 Iraqis in Hawija
- NSA Website Capable of Tracking Web Activity of Visitors
- Pentagon Says Un-Credited, Pro-US News Sites Legal
- South Korean Police Chief Resigns Over Farmers' Deaths
- Pinochet Photographed For First Mug Shot

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

As a Top Enron Exec Pleads Guilty, Journalist Robert Bryce Discusses the Death of Enron and the Firm's Close Ties to President Bush

Enron's former chief accountant Richard Causey may now testify against Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. We look at the fate of President Bush's corporate biggest campaign donor with the author of "Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego, and the Death of Enron."

Crime without Conviction: U.S. Makes Deals With Corporate Criminals Instead of Prosecuting

Corporations that commit securities and accounting fraud can now expect to get sweetheart deals from the Justice Department, and they don't face public exposure for their misdeeds. We speak with Russell Mokhiber of Corporate Crime Reporter.

Reverend Billy Preaches on Shopocolypse Tour of the Country

Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir went on a holiday circuit to preach against corporate consumer culture from Wal-Mart to Disneyland. The Reverend joins us in our firehouse studio.

Brandon e-mails to note Katha Pollitt's "It Wasn't All Bad" (The Nation) which focuses on fourteen developments that weren't "all bad:"

All year long it's been one piece of bad news after another, but now it's time to put on the rose-colored glasses and list some of the good things that happened in 2005. I had to e-mail about fifty people to come up with these items, but that's OK. Keeping you cheerful is part of my job. I mean, the war could be wrong, but the Iraqi elections could still be good. So fill that glass half full with whatever and...and...well, just drink it.
1.The Bush Administration is on the defensive. The President's poll numbers rival Nixon's at his nadir, most voters say they don't believe him on Iraq, he's had to admit that the prewar intelligence was wrong, Plamegate stalks the White House. Social Security reform is off the table. Hurricane Katrina proved the grown-ups were definitely not in charge--"You're doing a heckuva job" enters the lexicon as Bushese for "You have screwed up totally but I don't care."
2.The Republican Party is mired in corruption and cronyism. DeLay's on trial, Randy Cunningham's going to jail, Frist's AIDS charity ladled nearly half a million to his friends, Jack Abramoff seems to have the whole party on his payroll. The Supreme Court is looking into that mid-Census redistricting in Texas that gave them five new seats in 2004. David Brooks openly wonders why working-class people should vote for the GOP. Good question!

Pollitt's column should make you laugh. Another column featuring "outside the box" thinking (may we get much more in 2006) is Wally's highlight, John R. MacArthur's "Iraq: as in Football, Citizens Need to Call Their Own Plays" (The Providence Journal via Harper's):

All this made me wonder: Would the great college and pro coach John Robinson agree that something bad had happened to football, and, by extension, the American body politic?
"It's robotic what they do to the players," he told me by phone from his home, in Arizona. Yes, defenses are more sophisticated than in the old days, which requires greater pre-game planning by offenses, even to the exent of creating computer models. But in Robinson's opinion, the programmers have gone too far: "It's okay to tell the quarterback what to do [overall], but he should take over the huddle, so that when it breaks, the whole team is running the play. That's how you get an edge; that's how you build morale and esprit de corps. It offends me to see the whole team looking over to the bench waiting for instructions. And it denies the quarterback the opportunity to be assertive from a personal standpoint. You should let the players play."
In the pros, Robinson said, the lone exception to the no-initiative ethos is Peyton Manning, quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, "and the coaches get mad at him" when he changes the play at the line.
So is the top-down control of football an apt analogy for the political arena? To be sure, said Robinson. "It's part of the culture. I'm sick to death of the [overly scripted, overly managed politician] not answering the question. But the media deserves the blame, too, because they tear down anybody who says what they think."
Which led Robinson to President Bush and his latest advertising campaign: "I pick up the paper the other day and there's Bush and the 'Plan for Victory' in Iraq." The old coach laughed, then added, with some irony, "I wish him well--but the Plan for Victory in Iraq?"
I think the plan for victory in Iraq, like the plan for victory at Oklahoma State, would have Mac McCarty turning in his grave. I hope Al Pena, the quarterback and the citizen, can understand why.
Wally picked the excerpt and he is and his grandfather are going over several articles and columns that stood out this year (MacArthur's is one) for Wally's entry tomorrow at The Daily Jot. (That's an FYI.)

Speaking of Wally, he, Elaine and Mike did note "Support GI Resister Katherine Jashinski Now!" (DC Indymedia) yesterday so be sure to check that out. Ken e-mailed saying he signed up at Courage to Resist but hasn't recieved an automated e-mail to reply to. (You can sign up there for monthly e-mail alerts.) I haven't gotten one either but if you signed up and are waiting, make sure you check your junk mail/bulk mail folders in case it heads there by accident.

We'll close by noting Dominic's highlight, Kevin Zeese's "Top 10 Antiwar Stories of 2005" (CounterPunch) and Dominic wanted us to note, from this article, "The Underreported Ten:"

1. Bush Family war profiteering on the war in Iraq. The extent of Iraq contracts going to corporations which involve members of President George W. Bush's family has not been investigated by the corporate media. Among the Bush family members profiting from the war are his brothers Neil and Marvin as well as Bucky and William. This involves contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Often Bush-related firms receive contracts where the corporations have no expertise and certainly the Bush family members have no expertise or experience in these areas.
2. Investigate the alleged war crimes in the assault on Fallujah. The city of Fallujah had once been quiet about the occupation, but U.S. soldiers killing of civilians protesting the military taking of a school led to an uprising. The result: two devastating assaults, accusations of indiscriminate bombings, killing of civilians and the use of chemical weapons. Today, as one unidentified U.S. solder says "Anyone in Fallujah can be an insurgent." Understanding Fallujah will explain why the U.S. cannot win the war in Iraq.
3. The environmental and human impact of depleted uranium needs investigation. The U.S. is using armaments with depleted uranium claiming that there is no risk involved. Yet, there is evidence of danger to U.S. soldiers as well as Iraqis and the environment.
4. Is the United States losing the war in Iraq? In his recent series of speeches consistently claimed that the U.S. will leave Iraq when we win the war. Further, he and the Vice President have been claiming that we are winning the war. They know that many Americans are willing to take U.S. casualties and spend billions of dollars if there is a chance of winning. Yet, there is strong evidence that the war cannot be won and that the U.S. is doing more harm than good by remaining in Iraq.
5. The under counting of U.S. casualties in Iraq demeans the sacrifice of U.S. soldiers and is an unpatriotic lie of the Bush Administration. While 15,000 soldiers are reportedly casualties of the war, in fact more than 100,000 have sought medical treatment. The administration undercounts casualties as part of their effort to hide the true costs of the war. The media should pierce this veil of dishonesty and tell the public the truth about the casualty count.

The e-mail address for this site is