Friday, December 16, 2005

Democracy Now: Tina Susman, Bill Chandler, Ishmael Muhammad; Aaron Sarver, Marian Wright Edelman ...


Report: Bush-Enacted NSA Program Monitors Phone Conversations, E-Mails
The New York Times is reporting the National Security Agency has been eavesdropping on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals without court-approved warrants. Under a Bush administration directive enacted in 2002, the agency has monitored the international phone calls and e-mails of hundreds, and possibly thousands of people inside the country. The National Security Agency’s mission is to spy on communications abroad. Although officials said the program had helped thwart at least two potential attacks, most people monitored by the N.S.A. have never been charged with a crime.

The Times says it delayed publishing details of the program after a request from the Bush administration at least one year ago. At the request of the White House, the Times also says it has omitted information administration officials said could be useful to terrorists. The disclosure comes two days after NBC News revealed the Pentagon has kept detailed records on the events and meetings of anti-war groups across the country.


Turkish Novelist On Trial For Discussing Armenian Genocide
In Turkey, a popular novelist is on trial today for making comments about the veracity of the Armenian genocide. Orhan Pamuk stands trial for insulting “Turkishness” after he gave a magazine interview in which he referred to the genocide committed by the Ottoman government during the First World War. In the interview, Pamuk said QUOTE: "One million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares talk about it." Pamuk is one several Turkish citizens who have been issued with similar charges. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.


Ralphs Supermarket Chain Indicted on Labor Violations
In California, the Ralphs supermarket chain was indicted Thursday on charges it hired workers under false names and violated other labor laws during a workers’ strike in 2003. The indictment alleges Ralphs engaged in a QUOTE: "company-wide course of criminal conduct involving the hiring of locked-out employees under false names, Social Security numbers and documentation." The grocery chain locked out its workers in October 2003 after the Southern California grocery workers union voted to strike against Safeway’s Vons and Pavilions chains. Ralphs had been negotiating alongside Safeway. A Ralphs spokesperson acknowledged the company committed the violations, but said the actions were taken by individual managers and did not the result from company policy.


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

Headlines for December 16, 2005

- High Turnout For Parliamentary Elections in Iraq
- Bush Administration Drops Opposition to Senate Torture Ban
- WTO Talks At Standstill in Hong Kong
- Barghouti Leads Major Split in Ruling Palestinian Party Fatah
- Lebanese, Palestinians File Suit Against Ex-Israeli Officials in US
- Turkish Novelist On Trial For Discussing Armenian Genocide
- Transport Workers Announce Selective Strike As Talks Halt
House Debates Bill to Rewrite Immigration Laws, Includes Provision that Makes it a Felony to be an Undocumented Worker

The House debates a bill that would rewrite the nation's immigration laws. The legislation makes it a felony to be an undocumented worker to be in the United States without authorization and requires all employers to verify the legal status of their workers. We speak with the general counsel of the immigration worker program at the AFL-CIO and a member of the Border Network for Human Rights. [includes rush transcript]
Workers in New Orleans Denied Pay, Proper Housing and Threatened with Deportation

In the clean-up efforts following the devastation of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, many undocumented workers and homeless people were recruited to the area to work under large companies contracted by the federal government. We speak with Newsday reporter Tina Susman, who has investigated the case of a group of homeless men, and Bill Chandler, about subcontractors and workers' complaints. [includes rush transcript]
New Orleans Residents Face Eviction From Homes as Rents Skyrocket and Legal Protections Remain Weak

Three months after fighting for their lives in the days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, many survivors are now fighting to keep their homes in the city of New Orleans. We speak with attorney Ishmael Muhammad and a N.O. resident being evicted about the rising costs of rent and the legal challenges facing evacuees.
Bruce asks that we note the following:
There is a dreadful disconnect between the American conversation on Iraq, and the opinions of Iraqis and most people in the world. We know that more than 80 percent of Iraqis want the U.S. troops to get out of their country. This figure is so high, it reflects a consensus among all three major groups: Shia Arabs, Sunni Arabs, and Kurds. If Americans respected Iraqi opinion -- their true democratic aspirations -- there would be no question that the U.S. would leave. But instead, the corporate U.S. media pretends that America has brought democracy to Iraq, while disregarding Iraqi opinion. Only American opinion counts.
What's it from?  "The War Parties, Both of Them."  Which is?  This week's radio commentary from The Black CommentatorBruce wonders if most members are aware that The Black Commentator offers radio commentaries or that you can listen to the commentaries at the site or read them?  Bruce is the first member who has brought it up.  (I wasn't aware you could read them in text form.)  So this may be a feature that's new to the community.
Bruce: The Black Commentator took their stand against the war early and have maintained it.
They stand for truth to power.  They can cover any topic and not do in a fluffy way.  They have core principles and beliefs and stand by them.  The Black Commentator is offering subscriptions and if anyone's thinking of something to give for Christmas or if they're being asked what they want for Christmas, maybe they could think of The Black Commentator.  They aren't just the anti-Armstrong Williams by not selling their opions to the highest bidder, they are actively and loudly speaking out for their beliefs.  When it's easy to be fluffy, The Black Commentator doesn't just take the hard road, they blaze the trail.
For more on this, you can click hereBruce wondered if that was the sort of thing that would get a highlight of a worthwhile organization or outlet between now and the new year?  It's exactly the thing.  So if you're someone writing in saying "Plug ___" -- take the time to do what Bruce did.
Now we'll note a report from Susan who lives in an area "that was always off beat and that's what I liked about it but lately big money's moved in." 
Susan: We have a real coffee house that predates Starbucks by decades.  Local musician will play there.  The place has a really lived in feel.  But with the new crowd in the neighborhood, it's seemed less and less like a laidback place as Bully Boy cheerleaders seemed to be haunting the place.  So Thursday night, we showed up.  We sat at tables in twos.  With our magazines.  We couldn't decide on one so we took a variety.  We had Ms., we had The Nation, we had The Progressive, we had Off Our Backs, we had In These Times, we had Left Turn, we had Utne, we had Harper's.  There were twelve of us and very little repetition in magazine choices.  We had them displayed and talked and referred to them.  It was as though a Tom Ridge Homeland Security warning was sent out as they looked shocked, then nervous and then departed with one of them commenting about "all the liberal propaganda."  I'm not sure this is what you were talking about but it was a big moment for us.  The poiint, by the way, wasn't to run anyone of.  It was to let the newly moved in know that we are a part of the community. A message that hasn't gotten through yet even after we rallied to stop their demand that the coffee house do away with instrumental music over the speakers and blare out right wing radio instead."
Susan, I think the message you sent was very clear.  And probably even more clear due to the fact that you weren't all showing up with the same magazine.  In a nation where Newsweek, Time, et al are seen as "liberal," I'm sure it was a shock to be confronted with readers of actual left publications.  And if the mainstream media were truly interested in stopping the attacks that they're left, they would have done something similar sometime ago.  Take the New York Times since we focus on that each morning.  If it wanted to dispel the notion that it was "liberal," Bill Keller could do without opening new offices in the "heartland."  He could so by making sure that readers of the paper got to meet an actual left voice on a regular basis.  Sundays hearts & flowers to a right-winger (that didn't have one left voice quoted in the article) and attempts to keep importing the wishy-washy from the hawkish, mawkish The New Republic won't change anyone's minds.  If that's what's going to pass for "left," it's no surprise that so many have bought into the myth of the "liberal media." 
I want to say congratulations to everyone who has worked to raise the issue of the war in their own circles this week.  Bruce noted The Black Commentator and Bruce is right, they haven't been silent on the war.  It's been over a thousand days and playing "War Got Your Tongue?" won't help anyone.  It will allow this illegal invasion/occupation to continue.  We can use our voices and we can support others who do. 
Remember Danny Schechter's "MediaChannel Appeal: Join Us In A 'Tell The Truth About The War' Campaign"?  We can do that.  What's been accomplished so far didn't come from Dan Rather, Cokie Roberts or Matt Lauer telling the truth.  TV and print, the mainstream media (Laura Flanders called it the "maniac media" on Sunday's  The Laura Flanders Show ) hasn't led on this or even followed on it.  This has resulted from the independent media and from the people.
And that's probably a good point to lead into Micah's highlight, Aaron Sarver's "Lapham's Way" (In These Times) where Sarver speaks with Harper's Lewis Lapham:

Do you think those in power care about what dissenters such as yourself say?

They only care about it if it can take some form of political force. In other words, I think the Bush administration is beginning to care about the rising tide of criticism and the more general recognition of its dishonesty and incompetence. Observations that three or four years ago would have been considered leftist or extreme are beginning to show up in the president’s approval ratings.

Do we have any reasons to be optimistic about our country?

I think so. I have reasons in the many young people I encounter as the editor of Harper's. More young people today are anxious to get into the political melee than, say, in the middle of the '80s.

Information, getting the word out is important.  That's a point that Three Cool Old Guys  make in their e-mail today but also say "maybe we're too 'old school' but education matters just as much.  They to note Marian Wright Edelman's "Tax Cuts on the Backs of Children" (The Chicago Defender):

What is most just and important to America's future? Health coverage for 1.6 million children or tax breaks for 289,000 of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans?

Congress will meet this month to vote on a budget bill that will greatly hurt the poor and children, and on tax bills that will greatly benefit the wealthiest Americans. The Senate budget bill would cut $39 billion.

The House budget bill would cut $50 billion primarily from programs for low-income children and families including Medicaid, foster care, child support, childcare, food stamps, and student loans. The richest 1 percent of U.S. taxpayers will reap the majority of the tax breaks from the capital gains and dividend tax cuts included in the House tax bill. 

Three Cool Old Guys are community members via Cedric.  If you don't know about them, you haven't been reading Cedric's Big Mix.  And for those who have been reading, Three Cool Old Guys report that the choir came to their nursing home last night and gave an amazing performance of twelve Christmas carols.  They also note that they took part in increasing discussion on the war this week.
And Carl get's the last highlight, noting Jesse J. Holland's "Senate Rejects Extension of Patriot Act" (AP):

But the Patriot Act's critics got a boost from a New York Times report saying Bush authorized the National Security Agency to monitor the international phone calls and international e-mails of hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of people inside the United States. Previously, the NSA typically limited its domestic surveillance to foreign embassies and missions and obtained court orders for such investigations.

"I don't want to hear again from the attorney general or anyone on this floor that this government has shown it can be trusted to use the power we give it with restraint and care," said Feingold, the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001.

"It is time to have some checks and balances in this country," shouted Sen. Patrick Leahy, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. "We are more American for doing that."

Good news to end with.
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