Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Democracy Now: "The Tsunami, One Year Later"; Amitabh Pal, Marie-Jo Proulx, Democratic Underground, Kim Gandy

10,000 March in Baghdad To Protest Alleged Electoral Fraud
In Iraq, more than 10,000 people marched through Baghdad Tuesday to protest alleged fraud in the country's recent national elections. The marchers called for a national unity government to overcome country's sectarian divisions, with chants of: "No Sunnis, no Shiites, yes for national unity." Early results indicate the religious Shiite coalition the United Iraqi Alliance has won a vast majority of the National Assembly. But leaders from both Sunni and smaller, secular Shiite parties say the vote was marred with fraud.

Report: End to Subsidies Leads to 5x Increase in Iraq Gas Prices
In other news from Iraq, the Los Angeles Times is reporting gas prices in the country have increased fivefold since national elections two weeks ago. The increase is attributed to a debt-forgiveness deal signed with the International Monetary Fund that requires the interim Iraqi government to cut fuel subsidies. Gas is selling for a reported 65 cents a gallon, up from 5 cents over the summer. Robert Mabro, former chairman of the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies, said: "The subsidies may be big, but the situation in Iraq is such a mess. If there is a price increase, if they remove some of the subsidies, it will cause a lot of hardship."

Muslim Leaders Call For Meeting With AG Gonzales, FBI's Mueller
Meanwhile, the Muslim Public Affairs Council has called on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller to meet with Muslim American leaders in response to reports the federal government has been secretly monitoring radiation levels at Muslim sites in cities across the country.

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

Headlines for December 28, 2005

- Lawyers For Terror Suspects Plan Legal Challenges Over Wiretaps
- Muslim Leaders Call For Meeting With AG Gonzales, FBI's Mueller
- Aceh Rebel Leaders Announce Disarmament
- Authorities Discover New Mass Grave in Kerbala
- Israel Strikes PFLP Camp in Lebanon
- State, Transit Union Leaders Reach Tentative Agreement
- Four U.S. Marines Charged With Rape in the Philippines
- Red Cross Employees Indicted For Katrina Fraud
- Schwarzenegger's Name Removed From Hometown Stadium

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

The Tsunami, One Year Later: More Than A Million Still Homeless in Sri Lanka

On this first anniversary of the tsunami that devastated South Asia, we look at the fallout for the people of Sri Lanka. We speak with the Sri Lankan ambassador to the United Nations, an anti-poverty activist in Sri Lanka, and a physician treating Tamil refugees. [includes rush transcript - partial]

Post-Tsunami Indonesia: Military Still Controls Aceh, As Armed Rebels Disband

The Aceh region of Indonesia was ground zero for the tsunami. The death toll there has been estimated at up to 200,000 people. We speak with Ed McWilliams, a former State Department official in Jakarta about the humanitarian disaster and political fallout between the armed GAM rebels and the Indonesian government.

To stay on the topic of today's Democracy Now!, we'll note Lloyd's highlight first,
Amitabh Pal's "Bush Administration makes wrongheaded move on Indonesia" (Amitabh Pal's Weekly Column, The Progressive):

The Bush Administration has recently decided to take the unfortunate step of reestablishing military ties with the abuse-prone Indonesian military. The move is likely to encourage further human-rights excesses by the Indonesian armed forces.
The Bush Administration's move on November 22 to waive Congressional restrictions on military relations with the Southeast Asian nation has come under strong criticism.
"This is an abuse of discretion and an affront to the Congress," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, a persistent critic of the Indonesian military and the author of bills linking military aid to the improvement of human rights in that country. "To waive on national security grounds a law that seeks justice for crimes against humanity --without even obtaining the Indonesian government's assurance that it will address these concerns--makes a mockery of the process and sends a terrible message. The Indonesians will see it as a clean bill of health."
To be sure, the news looks promising in a region of Indonesia where the military has had a horrendous record over the past few decades.
The province of Aceh seems to be headed for peace--a beneficial by-product of the terrible tsunami that hit the area a year ago--as rebels announced December 27 that they were ready to lay down their arms.
And Indonesia's political system has reformed greatly since the end of the Suharto era. At the direction of General Suharto, the Indonesian military was responsible for killing hundreds of thousands, first during his accession to power and then to stifle independence movements, most notably in East Timor. Democratically elected governments over the past few years have acted as an institutional check on the military, a counterweight completely missing during Suharto’s reign from 1966 to 1998.
But there are still several problem areas remaining. The Indonesian military has repeatedly used excessive force to suppress a secessionist movement in the Irian Jaya (Papua) region.

A newer member e-mailed wondering why we hadn't spotlighted any of the New York Times' anniversary of the tsunami coverage? I don't think anyone's been impressed with it. If they have been, they haven't e-mailed on it. I haven't been impressed with it. Members have noted in e-mails that the strongest voices who reported the tsunami and its after-effects in real time at the paper haven't been the ones reporting on the anniversary. The community applauded the New York Times last year for their coverage of it. Their retrospective coverage hasn't impressed any member who's e-mailed.

Let me note that if there is a book discussion at The Third Estate Sunday Review this Sunday (one's planned), one of the books discussed will be by Frances Moore Lappe who also happens to be a guest on Progressive Radio. Charlie pointed that out in an e-mail. He also noted that Progressive Radio didn't have it's own link on our permalinks. Can we add it, Charlie wonders?

That's one of the links that's still waiting on a bundle of free time to drop in my lap. (I'm not holding my breath.) Hopefully, it will be added in the next few days. I'd like to have the links on the left completed before the new year begins. Fingers crossed, they will be. In the meantime, Charlie urges that if you listen online and you haven't heard the show yet, check out Matthew Rothschild's interview with Frances Moore Lappe.

Trevor notes that I mispelled Elaine's site in the tag at the bottom of the post. (Apologies to Elaine.) And wonders if we can highlight her entry Saturday? We can summarize it but I'm not sure where to excerpt and Trevor didn't offer a pull quote.
On Saturday, Elaine wrote about the ethics involved in treatment. She noted the recent death of Heinrich Gross who was involved (to what degree, he disputed, but like Elaine, I doubt the claims of innocence) in Nazi experiments. Noting his death, Elaine then noted Jane Mayer's New Yorker article ("The Experiment) and Jonathan H. Marks' article from The Nation ("The Silence of the Doctors") addressing the issue of "Biscuits" (Behavioral Science Consultation Teams) which include medical professionals. Elaine's addressing the issue of ethics (medical and otherwise). The entry is entitled "Expectations Personal and Professional." We'll pull her two concluding paragraphs on the topic:

As I stated, I'm rushing. (I'm attending mass with the McKinnons shortly.) But to nutshell this, what is going on is unacceptable. The death of Heinrich Gross should be an occasion to review how a climate for perversion of medical ethics can take place and it should make us take a serious look at what road we're currently on when medical professionals are using their skills and knowledge to assist interrogators in devising 'pressure points' (my term) for interrogations. That is a perversion of the profession. If we allow this perversion to continue, we aid in the creation of a climate that allowed Gross and others actions to be seen as worthy to their own government, as useful, as helping.
We have duties and obligations. We take an oath. We betray that, our training and our very reason for existance when we put serving a governmental policy ahead of the aims of our profession.

And Elaine and Mike have already said they'll note Bonnie's selection from this morning when they post this evening. ("Support GI Resister Katherine Jashinski Now!" was Bonnie's highlight.) Also noting Elaine's entry was Brad who wanted to highlight
Marie-Jo Proulx's "A Prescription for Torture" (Clamor):

In the span of a few months, and right under our noses, the involvement of American doctors in torture has gone from unthinkable to technically legal, to tacitly ethical. The Bush Administration effectively decriminalized the practice a long time ago, and it continues to flaunt the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of detainees. Meanwhile, the American Medical Association (AMA), which is supposed to defend the integrity of the medical profession, is silently writing a prescription for the military use of torture.
The AMA represents U.S. physicians and medical students of all regions and specialties. Since its inception in 1847 it has spoken as the voice of the medical profession. That is certainly how it presents itself when lobbying Congress and state legislatures for caps on medical liability payments and Medicare reimbursement reform. While today two out of three doctors are not joining the association, it still manages to spend roughly $16 million a year on lobbying activities. But the Chicago-based AMA also has a conscience: the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA), which oversees what is possibly the world's most comprehensive Code of Medical Ethics. Its principles and opinions are founded on the Hippocratic Oath, which first asserts that a physician shall "do no harm."
Approximately 1000 delegates attended the AMA's annual meeting in June, where a resolution entitled "Opposing Cooperation of Physicians and Health Professionals in Torture" was introduced by the Section on Medical Schools. It stated that, "It has been reported since the spring of 2004 that the U.S. military medical system in Guantánamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq ... failed to promptly report injuries or deaths caused by beatings, failed to report acts of psychological and sexual degradation, and sometimes collaborated with abusive interrogators and guards ... ." It also called on the AMA to condemn physicians' participation in mental or physical torture; support the right of physicians refusing to take part in torture to be protected from retribution; and encourage all medical schools to include training on ethical conduct and internationally recognized codes of professional behavior.
The resolution was debated in a packed room presided over by the Reference Committee on Amendments to Constitution and Bylaws. Delegates lined up at the microphone to offer testimony. Doctors in military uniform quickly filled the ranks in the center aisle. Many spoke of their own experience caring for soldiers and prisoners of war in past conflicts. Some accused the sponsors of the resolution of being influenced by fabricated media reports. One retired medical officer pointed out to his civilian colleagues in the audience that abuse is not the same as torture. Citing the sexual degradation in the Abu Ghraib pictures, he declared that such treatment, while deplorable, legally did not constitute torture. Listening in their seats, many shook their heads in disbelief.

Karen e-mails to note Average Joe's "Communicaton Theory Explains GOP control" (Democratic Underground) which addresses the way two communication theories (Spiral of Silence and Mean World Syndrome) impact the way the world around us is seen:

Spiral of Silence is primarily tied to the "news" media. The American "news" media has been almost completely hijacked by massive corporations and their political arm, the GOP. This media drums out its basic message 24/7: Democrats are bad, republicans are good, and * is GREAT.
[. . .]
Mean World Syndrome is tied to both news and entertainment media. The corporate "news" media treat local crime stories (kidnapped children, missing women, etc.) as national crises and spend grossly inappropriate amounts of time and energy covering these stories. While it is correct for media to report crime, very often the stories with which the corporate media choose to saturate their "news" shows are of legitimate interest only to a specific community or region. The Lacey Peterson and Natalie Holloway stories demonstrate this beautifully.
The best example of entertainment media being used to further Mean World Syndrome among consumers is the Law and Order franchise. These shows do four basic things. First, they tell viewers that violent criminals are everywhere and can strike at any time. Second, they tell viewers that police officers always have the public's best interest at heart. Third, they tell viewers that criminal defense attorneys are almost always corrupt and wrong. Fourth, they tell viewers that criminal prosecutors always seek only truth and their only motivation is to protect society. Fifth, they tell viewers that it is okay for prosecutors to bend the rules in order to put the bad guys away--that the end justifies the means.

Karen: See, it's like you and Ava said, "All the Law & Orders suck. They do not, however, all suck equally. But, yes, they all suck."

Jess said the points are more clear in the review Ava and I did the week after (CSI Miami):

Last week's review led to two e-mailers questioning what we saw as the glorification of the "law" and the "of course he's guilty" attitude of Law & Order: Trial By Jury. For those two, and any others missing the obvious, we offer the following dialogue exchanged during the show.

Procter: Do you think the parents have any idea that they are paying for their kids to have sex with teachers and buy their grades?
Adam Rodriguez: I don't know but it makes me realize what an angel I was.

Makes the audience realize that too. Makes them feel really smug and satisfied the way their parents did watching those wacky hippies on the cop shows of the sixties and early seventies. We'd argue that anyone from that period who watches this nonsense today was never interested in opening the floodgates to all, just opening them to themselves. Fair or not, that's why the baby boomers have one of the worst generational images. We're glad that we can say the boomers we choose to hang around don't share that selfish, 'Me-Decade' quality, but this crap obviously sells to those who do -- as well as to the reactionaries of all ages who need to be reassured of how wicked the world is.

There's no need for characterization in these type of shows or for strong acting, they're morality plays, little parables about the wickedness that is all around you and how only the strong arm of the law can save you. So you smirk as Caruso strongs arms a meth user or as Proctor has an entire school turn over their cell phones. (Proctor rolls her eyes when a campus security guard says he's there to make sure she doesn't trample the student's civil rights.)

These type of shows are what the boomers once rebelled against. Forgive us if badly acted, badly written, reactionary sermonettes don't strike us as entertaining. It's not that there's not a place for shows like these, it's just that the place is PAX and not CBS.

Will's highlight takes us from the message to the system itself, Sheldon Drobny's "Breaking the Media Monopoly" (The Huffington Post):

My first book, Road To Air America, was published in November, 2004 and sold approximately 4000 copies. It was not exactly a best seller, but I thought it was a pretty good start for me. I never got any meaningful publicity nor did I seriously seek it. I wrote the book for my wife Anita and me.
My next book, Defying The Distortion, is coming out this April or May. In it, I expand upon the ways to break up the mainstream media's obedience to the rich and powerful. And one of the methods that I do not endorse is just to complain about them.
While I enjoy the commentaries about the hosts of the Sunday "freak shows" such as Tim Russert and others, these hosts are making millions of dollars and have already been bought. I do not believe that Russert and his ilk are bad people. However, he and the other news anchors on the MSM fit a mold that is acceptable to corporate America and that mold will not change. MSM do not want independent reporters who will not necessarily follow the corporate loyalty code. The days of independent news divisions are long gone. The Murrows and Cronkites of the news media will have to come from independent organizations that promote hard hitting investigative journalism.

And Erika notes Kim Gandy's "Holiday Songs in the Key of 'F'" (Below the Belt, NOW):

I love this time of year. Although the ice and snow aren't doing my car any favors (or my hair, for that matter!), there is something special about having time to rest and reflect on the year -- take a step back, bask in the warmth of family and friends, and gather strength for the coming battles (which, I promise you, will be numerous).
So before treating you to our holiday songs "in the key of 'F'," I hope you'll join me in looking back over the year at some of the accomplishments that make me so proud to be your NOW President.
- The year started off with a bang with all the furor over Harvard President Larry Summers' ridiculous comments about women's "innate" inferiority in math and science! NOW was the first to call for his resignation, a call that was later seconded by the Harvard faculty. The end result of the public attention was that Harvard has now made a real financial investment in increasing the presence of women in hard sciences at that institution.
- In February we launched our Equal Marriage campaign, and the terrific response from activists across the country, and the ways they have put this campaign to work, has been spectacular to see!
- Through March and April we fought the FDA on risky silicone breast implants and then lobbied furiously on Emergency Contraception (EC) while also mobilizing our activists to save the Senate filibuster from the frightening "nuclear" option that would have threatened our liberties and made it nearly impossible to stop a bad Supreme Court nominee.
- In July came a real turning point. We were all gathered in Nashville for our National Conference when the news of Sandra Day O'Connor's resignation was announced. Never ones to shrink from a fight, we immediately declared a "State of Emergency for Women's Rights", were the first in the nation to hold a press conference, and organized a march and rally in a matter of hours, right there at the Tennessee State House in Bill Frist's "back yard."
- In September we marched with CodePink and hundreds of other groups to call for an end to the Iraq war and invasion. Hundreds of NOW members joined in to help remind the world that "peace is a feminist issue!" We also spoke out against Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina, and continue to demand fair treatment for the survivors, who are desperately seeking the aid that was allocated for them, but which hasn't been delivered by the Bush allies who received multi-million-dollar no-bid contracts, like Halliburton.

From the most recent roundtable at The Third Estate Sunday Review, we'll close with this because Gandy and NOW are community favorites:

Elaine: Well, first I'll note someone else, another strong voice that's highlighted at community sites, Kim Gandy. Most recently, Cedric made a point to note NOW.
Cedric: Right because it's a group that's concerned with a huge range of issues. They were there,
NOW, for the victims of Katrina, they were there to speak out against the Patriot Act. They have weighed in on the war. Pick an issue and they've used their voice which comes from the organization itself and the strong leadership of Kim Gandy.

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[Note: Post corrected for font.]