Thursday, December 15, 2005

Democracy Now: William Arkin, anti-war activists, targeting Daniel McGowan ; Amitabh Pal, Monica Benderman

Congressmembers Press for Release of Rev. Jean-Juste
And six members of Congress have sent a letter to President Bush urging the US government to demand the release of jailed Haitian priest Gerard Jean-Juste. Before his imprisonment in July, Jean-Juste was considered to be the leading candidate for the Family Lavalas -- the party of ousted Presdient Jean Bertrand Aristide -- were it to run in Haiti's upcoming elections. Amnesty International has called him a "prisoner of conscience." An American medical doctor who examined him in prison two weeks ago reported Jean-Juste has displayed symptoms of a number of serious medical conditions, including cancer. In the letter, the congressmembers, including California Democrat Maxine Waters, write Bush: "Your action at this critical time could save the life of this gentle priest."

Bloomberg Pushing For Heavy Fines Ahead of Possible Transit Strike
In New York City, the city is gearing up for the possibility of a transit workers' strike that could begin Friday. With a contract deadline set for midnight tonight, negotiators with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the transit workers' union warn they are at a standstill. The biggest differences center around an MTA proposal to create a two-tier pension and health insurance plan for the workers. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is also pushing for severe fines that would force the union to pay $1 million dollars and individual transit workers $25,000 dollars on the strike's first day -- with those fines doubled each successive day.

Over 77,000 Katrina Home Loan Applications Rejected
In this country, the New York Times is reporting hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast families are being denied government loans to rebuild homes lost or damaged in Hurricane Katrina. According to the Times, the Small Business Administration -- the federal agency in charge of the main disaster recovery program for businesses and homeowners -- has processed only a third of the 276,000 loan applications it has received. Of those that have been reviewed, the government has rejected 82 percent of home loan applications -- over 77,000 rejections. In New Orleans, approved loans appear to be heavily tilted towards wealthy neighborhoods over poor ones. Herbert Mitchell, director of the Small Business Administration's disaster assistance program, told the Times the government could not risk taxpayer money by lending to people with low incomes or poor credit history. Mitchell said: "We're just dealing with the demographics in the area."

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

Headlines for December 15, 2005

- Parliamentary Elections Open in Iraq
- Bush Acknowledges Intel Mistakes But Defends Iraq War
- Ahmadinejad: Nazi Holocaust a "Myth", Israel Should Be Removed
- Israeli Strikes Kill Four Palestinians in Gaza
- Over 77,000 Katrina Home Loan Applications Rejected
- Patriot Act Moves to Senate as House Approves Renewal
- Bloomberg Pushing For Heavy Fines Ahead of Possible Transit Strike
- US Government Denies Entry Permit to Cuban Baseball Team
- Congressmembers Press for Release of Rev. Jean-Juste

Pentagon Caught Spying on U.S. Anti-War and Anti-Nuclear Activists

Newly leaked Pentagon documents have confirmed the military has been monitoring and collecting intelligence on anti-war groups across the country. Peace protests are being described as threats and the military is collecting data on who is attending demonstrations. We speak with William Arkin, the former Army intelligence officer, who obtained the secret Pentagon documents.

Anti-War Protesters Under Pentagon Surveillance Speak Out

We speak to anti-war activists in New York, Florida, California, Iowa and Ohio who organized protests listed as threats by the Pentagon.

FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force Collected Intelligence on Peaceful Protesters in Colorado

The Colorado ACLU obtained the documents that the FBI collected the names and license plates of several dozen activists involved in non-violent protests against a 2002 convention of the North American Wholesale Lumber Association.

New York Activist Faces Life in Prison; Feds Accuse Him of Eco-Terrorism

Daniel McGowan was one of six environmental activists arrested last week in a series of coordinated raids across four states. He is accused of setting a pair of arsons in Oregon in 2001 and is being held without bail.

Norah asks that we remember that there are protests going on against Guantanamo . . . in Guantanomo, "US Catholics on third day of vigil" (New Zealand's Scoop):

Guantanamo, Cuba - A group of 21 US Christians are on their third day of a fast and prayer vigil outside of the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay as Pope Benedict makes a strong statement against human rights abuses. "The truth of peace must also let its beneficial light shine even amid the tragedy of war," said the Pope, "not everything automatically becomes permissible between hostile parties once war has regrettably commenced."

This is going on and Democracy Now! noted it Tuesday:

U.S. Activists Hold Vigil Outside Guantanamo
A group of U.S. activists have begun a vigil near the gates of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. Members of the group Witness Against Torture walked for five days across Cuba to reach Guantanmo. Military officials rejected their request to meet with any of the 500 or so prisoners who are being held without charges.

  • Peace activist Frida Berrigan: "We're fasting, most of us fasting just on water. Some people drinking some juice. Fasting and praying, and hoping that our intentions reach the prisoners. That somehow through the power of prayer, they will feel our presence, feel our solidarity. At the same time we're calling on people in the United States to call President Bush, to call Donald Rumsfeld, to get in touch with the base here in Guatanamo, so that we might be let in to visit the prisoners, to visit the soldiers, American soldiers here. And to open up this modern heart of darkness to the light of day and to the light of world scrutiny."

More speaking out, Lloyd e-mails to note Amitabh Pal's "Nobel-winner ElBaradei makes a Powerful Speech" (Amitabh Pal's Weekly Column, The Progressive):

The acceptance speech by this year's Nobel Peace Prize-winner, Mohamed ElBaradei, was a more subdued, but no less effective, indictment than the one issued by current Nobel Literature laureate Harold Pinter.

ElBaradei made some powerful statements on the misuse of the world's resources, the hypocrisy of the established nuclear powers, and the hierarchy of global coverage by the international media. He ended with a strong plea for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

His lecture wasn't perfect. ElBaradei shared the prize with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the agency he heads, and he used the podium to laud the work the organization is doing to promote nuclear power.

Still, much of his speech was right on target.

"Last year, the nations of the world spent over $1 trillion on armaments," ElBaradei said. "But we contributed less than 10 percent of that amount--a mere $80 billion--as official development assistance to the developing parts of the world, where 850 million people suffer from hunger."

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has a webpage that gives details about this global scourge. In spite of some advances in battling starvation, the absolute number of chronically hungry people has increased in the past few years. And the rate of progress in combating the problem has slowed in recent times.

Peace and activism seem to be the topics today (good topics) so we'll note Judy's highlight. Judy usually passes these on to Elaine but, as she points out in her e-mail, Elaine doesn't post Thursdays. Since Judy didn't pick a highlight (she copied and pasted the entire thing), I'm sure Elaine will choose a better section, but we'll just pull from the top paragraphs for our excerpts.

This piece was written by Monica Benderman. If you read Elaine's site (Like Maria Said Paz) or followed it when Elaine was subbing for Rebecca at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, you're familiar with this Benderman saga. If not, the basics are that Monica's husband Kevin Benderman attempted to be designated as a conscience objector and a vindictive military (this is my take) tried him and when not pleased, tried him again. He has now serves a sentence. They lowered his rank. Monica Benderman has spoken out about this and against the war. You can find more information at The Benderman This is from her "What Peace Needs" (CounterPunch):

The Regional Corrections Facility at Ft. Lewis, Washington is vintage World War II. The windows are cracked and can't be closed. It's below freezing on most nights now.

I could go on--but what good will it do in this country of warmongers, idealistic pacifists, and evangelicals? Nothing like love for a cause--any cause--as long as it's impersonal enough that everyone can remain detached, can share their emotions through the war cries and protest chants, staring out into a field of people whose gazes are just as vacant as the featured speaker of the day.

The military prison is filled with the usual criminal element, narcotics and alcohol abusers, thieves, and child molesters. It has been said that the best chance of parole from this facility is for the child molesters--tells you a lot about our society--the society that professes such a high moral standard that we can dare to invade other countries to bring that same standard to their shores.

In among the criminals, sleeping on a three inch thick mattress, sitting in plastic chairs staring at the walls all day, and waiting for months at a time to have his request for a call to his attorney fulfilled, is one who is furthest from the criminal element, a man the Anti-War movement lovingly refers to as a "Prisoner of Conscience." Labels, always the labels. Sgt. Kevin Benderman stands for everything that should be right in this country. This man stands for liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, FREEDOM to be himself and live as he chooses.

Last item of note goes to Mia who asks, "What are they saying about Robert Novak?" Novak said this on the outing of Valerie Plame last night:

"So I say, don't bug me. Don't bug Bob Woodward. Bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is," Novak said.

The e-mail address for this site is

[Tags added by Ava.]