Saturday, December 24, 2005

Kat's Korner: Blunt's got the goods

[Note: This is the second of Kat's three commentaries this weekend. Yesterday Kat provided commentary on Carly Simon's No Secrets. Tomorrow she provides her third day of commentary.]

Wars don't always get theme songs written expressly for them. Ask the British. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" meant one thing to them in 1939. In the midst of WWII, it meant quite another. Something similar could happen with regards to James Blunt's "No Bravery."

There are children standing here
Arms outstretched into the sky
Tears drying on their face
He has been here
Brothers lie in shallow graves
Fathers lost without a trace
A nation blind to their disgrace.
Since he's been here.
And I see no bravery,
No bravery in your eyes anymore.
Only sadness.

That's the tenth and final song on Blunt's Back to Bedlam. It's a bold closer as Blunt writes of his own experience in the British military during Kosovo. Linda Perry provides her usual right-on production touches and the song springs fully born from your speakers. It no longer belongs to Blunt. Whether or not it will belong to the anti-war movement is a question the future will determine.

So who is James Blunt? If you haven't heard him but you've heard of him, groupies used to do the best p.r., then you probably know that he's been tagged by some as "the new Elton John."

That's not really accurate. I can hear as many similarities to Rufus Wainwright as I can too Elton John. Like John, or Wainwright, he plays piano. That's about all other than some similar enuciations. He certainly doesn't have Elton's range. In fact, vocally, he appears to owe more to Rod Stewart and the Gallagher brothers than Elton John.

But he's a singer-songwriter, he plays the piano, and he's British, so there are worse comparisons that could be made. Just don't buy the CD expecting to find ten knock offs of, say, "I'm Still Standing."

The standout track in this collection is "Goodbye My Lover" -- the one he wowed the Saturday Night Live studio audience with a few weeks back. It's a stark ballad featuring piano, organ, drums and, among other instruments, strings. The first time you hear the song, you'll probably be able to see some of the end rhymes coming and maybe you'll be able to half-sing along.

I'm not sure what to think of the lyrics, honestly. And certainly the music is your basic chords. What makes this song is the tension in Blunt's vocals. At times, he hesitates or stumbles only to quickly rush through a line. There's an energy in the performance that's unlike most of what gets played on the radio. And that we're talking about a vocal performance is, in itself, rather remarkable since most singer-songwriters aren't known for being remarkably gifted singers. Blunt may very well be one. It's harder to tell on other songs because, too often, just as he seems about to catch fire, the musical production comes marching in (loudly). On "Billy" for instance, just when Blunt's vocals are heating up, the Wurlitzer arrives.

It's at moments like that where you may find yourself wishing Linda Perry produced more than the final track. Too often Tom Rothrock, who had a hand in producing the other nine songs, seems to be going for the overblown Oasis feel.

Listening to Back to Bedlam, it's hard not to wish that there was a little more bedlam and a little less bombast. I'd even settle for some (Marc) Bolan.

It wouldn't matter so much were it not for the fact that Blunt seems to be ready for one of those moments that plucks an unknown musician and turns him (or her) into a Time cover and a multiple Grammy nominee. The kind of moment that, when it arrives, leads people like Maggie to insist, "Oh, I've been listening to him for years." No exclamation point, because that sort of remark is always tossed off in a blase manner. You want to underplay it when you're trying to claim to have gotten the bandwagon rolling as opposed to the having lept on as it careens down the hill.

There's a good chance that Blunt's due for that kind of ride. The songwriting and singing are strong enough to garner that kind of attention. If I seem to be quibbling about the production, it's because this truly should be a classic rock album. In an earlier era that would have meant only one highly polished track, which would be the designated single, and the rest of the tracks would be far less smooth. That's not the case on Back to Bedlam. But if you can get past producer Tom Rothrock's determination to pretty and tidy up, you'll find an album that's got quite a bit more on it's mind than the average Disney Kid is capable of. Maybe that has to do with the fact that Blunt has apparently lived a life far from the soundstages of the Mickey Mouse Club? Or maybe it's just the fact that he truly has talent?

Blunt's got the goods and before Clear Channel took over broadcast radio (and killed the little life that was left in it) and started pushing the Disney Kids off on us as the fad that they refuse to let fade (even though listeners for it have -- and the music industry wonders why sales are in the toilet) Blunt could have had a fair hearing. "High" is made for heavy rotation with its catchy chorus but "You're Beautiful" is the track that goes deeper into the personal.

If you're tired of the kewpie dolls (male and female) playing at naughty (a safe kind of rebellion which is why they continue to get airplay on Clear Channel stations), Back to Bedlam is an album you should check out. "No Bravery" may or may not inspire the anti-war movement but it's real and when an artist comes along who's willing to open up, that is bravery.

Ruth's Morning Edition Report

Ruth: CounterSpin, which I listen to on WBAI, featured Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and journalist Michael Massing of The New York Review of Books and Columbia Journalism Review. Before the interview segments, the show provided a run down of "the week's press" as it does each week.

What is Time Magazine's Joe Klein's issues with teachers? Did he wet himself in the second grade and some teacher didn't have a clean pair of children's under pants on hand? In a recent column, Joe Klein praises California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for "taking on public school teachers." Mr. Klein apparently believes that the real terrorists are to be found at our chalkboards across the country. Mr. Klein also had praise for the Bully Boy for his freedom lip service regarding Lebanon, Senator Lindsey Grahm for his efforts to privatize Social Security and Senator Obama Barrak for his condemning advocacy groups opposed to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts' nomination. Why does Mr. Klein hate us for our freedoms?

Another item addressed a recent study by NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin who studied the use of think tanks by NPR. In 2004, FAIR, the parent organization of CounterSpin, studied NPR's use of think tanks and concluded that it relied on right-of-center think tanks. Now Mr. Dvorkin has come to similar conclusions, one year later. Mr. Dvorkin found that 239 guests were from right-wing think tanks and that 141 guests were from left-wing think tanks. To reach those totals, Mr. Dvorkin had to classify the centrist Brookings Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) as left-wing. "Without them, the study would have shown zero progressive think tanks," Steve Rendell noted.

However, the CSIS has "historically been rather conservative" and, when arguing FAIR's 2004 study, Mr. Dvorkin stated that FAIR's classification of CSIS was wrong because "they have left and right on staff." Which means that in 2004, Mr. Dvorkin felt that CSIS was, at best, a centrist think tank; however, one year later, Mr. Dvorkin feels that CSIS is now left-wing one.
A lot can, apparently, happen in a year. Or perhaps Mr. Dvorkin changed his own classification because, as Mr. Rendell noted, "Without them [Brookings and CSIS], the study would have shown zero progressive think tanks."

Janine Jackson was on this week. Ms. Jackson, Mr. Rendall and Peter Hart host CounterSpin with two appearing on air each week. Two apologies are in order. First, apologies to Mr. Rendall whose name I have spelled "Rendell" in the past. Reading through the latest issue of Extra!, also put out by FAIR, I saw the C-Span article that had been highlighted here this week and noticed the correct spelling of Mr. Rendall's name. My apologies for having mispelled it in the past. The second apology goes to Ms. Jackson and members who enjoy her commentaries. I enjoy them too but I rarely note them because she just tickles me. This week, I swore I would take notes and include her. I know she addressed an academic study by two professors. I remember that they were claiming liberal bias in the media. But her delivery always delights me and I find myself laughing and not taking notes. So my apologies to Ms. Jackson and members who enjoy her commentaries that have e-mailed asking why I rarely go over them here. It is because I am laughing too hard to take notes.

Michael Ratner was interviewed by Steve Rendall and they discussed a number of issues in the news. This included the NSA tapping of American citizens and the administration's attempts to justify this spying. Mr. Ratner found the argument "sbusrd. It's an assertion of power that goes way beyond anything I've seen. . . . It's really the usurping of our Constitution and our checks and balances. . . . It's criminal and impeachable."

Mr. Ratner tied the administration's argument to earlier administration arguments. Such as when President Dwight Eisenhower attempted to seize steel mills during the Korean war and the Supreme Court found that he did not have that power and President Richard Nixon's argument that could "wiretap without a warrant domestic activists opposing the war" which was also found to be a power that he did not have.

Mr. Rendall raised the issue of the New York Times sitting on the story of the N.S.A. tapping for over a year and Mr. Ratner found that "chicken hearted" and wondered, "How they could have waited a year on something the president was saying 'I am above the law'?"

On the issue of domestic spying, the Pentagon spying on activists, Mr. Ratner traced that back to the actions of then Attorney General John Ashcroft following 9/11. He noted that we are now back to fighting battles that we won in the seventies and eighties all over again.

The so-called torture ban that has been so widely applauded by the mainstream media was not something that Mr. Ratner found praise worthy. He noted that the ban had "always been there" but that the McCain amendment now provides a loophole where, if you torture and if there is a government memo or legal opinion authorizing the torture, the person conducting torture now has a legal out should their be criminal or civil prosecution for his or her actions.

The Grahm-Levin amdendment also raised issues because it strips Guantanamo detainees of their right to be heard in the courts and allows them to be held for any length of time at the whim of the executive branch and based upon "evidence" that resulted from torture.

Ms. Jackson conducted the next interview which was with journalist Michael Massing. Mr. Massing had previously explored external issues that impact the press and is currently exploring internal issues such as "the need for access. Access journalism has become a big part of our reporting . . . and often inhibits them [the press] from doing the kind of reporting that we need."

He also addressed self-censorship and felt that following 9/11 there was self-censoship within the profession and that it was "a big factor that doesn't get talked about in the profession." He noted that the press on Iraq has not given as much attention to issues such as checkpoints in Iraq despite the number of Iraqis killed as a result of misunderstanding hand signals and other issues. This is a story that is a component of life in Iraq but it is not addressed in a manner that reflects how common place the tragic events are.

Ms. Jackson asked about the idea of balance and, while defending the model itself, Mr. Massing took issue with a number of distortions it can provide. "Journalists too often don't let their readers know what the reality is," Mr. Massing stated. "Readers are often sort of not clued in as to what the reality is."

Touching on the reaction of the press to poverty in New Orleans, Ms. Jackson noted that they seemed to be "discovering poverty. Are most reporters out of touch?"

Mr. Massing felt that as the profession has become more professionalized and more prestigious, many reporters have been cut off from various groups of people that earlier generations would have mixed with. He noted the D.C. correspondents dinner and how news organizations and the elected and appointed officials easily mix at that. He also noted that many reporters in D.C. send their children to the same schools as the officials.

Pacifica's WBAI is the station I listen to CounterSpin on as well as Law & Disorder which aired Monday. [Note WBAI archived broadcasts can be accessed here.] The hosts of Law & Disorder are Michael Ratner, Dalia Hashad, Michael Smith and Heidi Bohosian. Unless Law & Disorder is now a weekly show, which would please me, I am unable to figure out the schedule.

The issue of air marshalls moving from planes to land travel was discussed. Trains and ferries will now be their scope as well and they will be working in larger teams. Also addressed was what to do when the F.B.I. comes calling? "If the F.B.I. wants to talk to you, call a lawyer," Michael Ratner stated. "Call the ACLU, the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitonal Rights." The ACLU provides a pamphlet you can download, in various languages, entitled "Know Your Rights." In addition, you can request one at (212) 549-2517.

Two guests addressed developments in Mumia Abu-Jamal's case. The third circuit has agreed to "to hear some of the infractions" involved in the case that resulted in Mr. Abu-Jamal being on death row. The two guests were Jaff Mcakler and Robert R. Bryan, both attornies of Mr. Abu-Jamal, who addressed the issues the third circuit appears ready to hear which included the prosecutor instructing the jury that "You can feel okay about finding him guilty because even if you do find him guilty, he's going to have appeal after appeal" which may have resulted in the jury dismissing reasonable doubt and the burden of proof being lowered. In addition racial bias will be reviewed. As has long been part of the public record, a court stenographer has stated she overheard the judge stating, "Yeah, I'm going to help fry the n___."

A third attorney was brought on, Bill Moffet, to discuss his successful defense of professor Sami Al-Arian. Professor Al-Arian is the man whom the government attempted to get terrorism convictions on due to his support for Palestinian causes. Mr. Moffet stated that rather than play on the government's field, the defense he argued was based upon First Amendment rights and that the jury's verdicts supported those grounds.

Lori e-mailed to ask if I heard "Woodstock" played during one of the moments between segments. I did hear the song but I believe it was Joni Mitchell's version from her Ladies of the Canyon album due to the piano. However, it may have been Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's version.

The final guests were the authors of Actions Speak Louder Than Bumper Stickers which is a book featuring cathy bumper stickers with facts on the back of each one. Some of the slogans on the bumper stickers include:

"One Person One Vote Offer Not Valid In Florida"
Mark Twain's "Suppose You Were An Idiot, Suppose You Were A Member of Congress. But I Repeat Myself."
"Democrats Think That The Glass Is Full, Republicans Think That The Glass Is Their's."

KPFA's The Morning Show featured Michael Ratner as a guest on Thursday. Philip Maldari conducted the interview and they addressed the topics of spying and torture. The Jose Padilla case was also addressed. The administration wanted to avoid the Supreme Court ruling on whether Mr. Padilla could be an enemy combantant so they moved him from a military tribunal to a civilian court, dropped the enemy combantant tag and attempted to force the courts to play along. "The court said you are toying with us," Mr. Ratner noted commenting on the court's refusal to grant the change in venue. "This was a serious blow to the administration." The issues of whether or not Padilla can be transferred from the category of enemy combantant to a criminal court and whether or not the government can detain citizens without trial will now be addressed by the Supreme Court.

Later in the program, Andrea Lewis interviewed two authors, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, who provided tips for would be authors. The authors have written Putting Your Passion Into Print: Get Your Book Published Successfully! and the interview is filled with information and humor. Ms. Lewis worked in publishing so not only were her questions informed, she was also able to provide publishing suggestions as well.

If you missed Thursday's broadcast, you also missed Jennifer Stone's commentary which included discussing the Mary Poppins books and the author of the series, P. L. Travers. The Morning Show airs on KPFA Mondays through Friday and is a two hour blend of news, public interest, arts and much more. Cindy e-mailed requesting that members check out the show and to remember that you can listen to it (and all Pacifica programs) online.

Other Items

How do you get attention from the press in Iraq? Picket? Rally? Stage a happening? Whatever you do, you better do it in Baghdad (in the Green Zone -- heavily guarded area of Baghdad -- or the Red Zone but Green Zone preferred).

That's how Sunni Arabs got Sabrina Tavernise's attention in "Thousands of Sunnis Protest in Baghdad, Charging Fraud in Election:"

Several thousand Sunni Arabs gathered Friday in a residential neighborhood in central Baghdad to protest what they said was broad-based fraud in elections last week, in a sign of deepening Sunni discontent over the vote.
As many as 3,000 people, including secular Shiites, choked a main boulevard in the Yarmouk neighborhood near the headquarters of a prominent Sunni political party early Friday afternoon. Thick crowds of demonstrators shouted slogans and held banners that read, "No to falsification," and "No to marginalization."

Think that's a silly idea? Note the third paragraph, tossed in as an aside:

Protesters also spilled onto streets in Samarra, a Sunni Arab city north of Baghdad, and in Mosul, in northern Iraq.

Another aside, tossed in at the end, final paragraph:

Three American soldiers were killed by roadside bombs in Baghdad in two separate incidents on Thursday and Friday, the American military said in a statement.

Molly notes the Associated Press' "Italy Seeks Arrests in Kidnapping Case" which will summarize. Prosecutor Armando Spataro has argued successfully to a judge that twenty-two people involved in the 2003 kidnapping of Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr in Italy (cleric from Egypt, kidnapping took place in Milan) and warrants have been issued. One of the twenty-two, all are believed to be CIA, is identified: Robert Seldon Lady. Lady is currently in the US but had been the CIA "station chief in Milan."

Kara notes Russ Baker's "NSA Spooking You? Facts First, Please" (The Huffington Post via Common Dreams):

There's a separate issue: who eavesdrops domestically? The NSA is not supposed to conduct domestic surveillance -- that should properly be the province of the FBI. Why could information from NSA intercepts abroad not have been efficiently passed to the FBI for immediate further domestic intelligence, with the special court being notified within the mandated 72 hours? Was it a technological thing -- only the NSA had the electronic chops to track so many real-time chats? Or was someone afraid that the FBI was too leak-prone to be entrusted with what might very well turn out to be illegal acts? (It has been reported that some NSA operatives were nervous about having to perform such acts.)
We don't know any answers to any of this because everything is secret. Only a handful of senior congressmembers get 'briefed' at all, but in truth they understand little of what they're being told, lack any means of independently verifying it, and (according to Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia) cannot complain publicly if they don't like what they're hearing.
What this affair is really about is the government's fear of sharing basic facts about how it operates -- and how it spends billions of tax dollars each year ostensibly to protect us. The boilerplate claims that the mere revelation of general policies and broad outlines of intelligence management will aid the enemy are patently ridiculous. With the Soviet bloc gone, there is no commensurate establishment on the other side that is plotting out sophisticated moves based on knowing the total size of the US intelligence budget, or on understanding information-sharing between agencies. I've yet to see evidence or even good argument that Osama bin Laden has this capability -- or even any interest in it. He's got other things to do.
Our government needs to start sharing a whole lot more facts with us. After all -- and this is worth reminding ourselves -- it is our country. And the government works for us.

Eddie notes Stephen Crockett (co-host, Democratic Talk Radio) Stephen Crockett's "Republicans to Poor: 'Freeze to Death'" (BuzzFlash):

Republicans in Congress cut home heating assistance funding to poor Americans by around $200 million. Democrats were seeking $5 billion. Republicans approved $2 billion.
Home heating costs are up around 40 percent to 70 percent over last year depending on the type of heating used.
Oil companies have huge excess profits that could be taxed to fund the program. Republicans in Congress have effectively blocked any attempt to tax these excess oil industry profits to help poor Americans from freezing to death.
Poor citizens do not give huge campaign contributions to Republican politicians like oil industry executives and oil industry political action committees. The poor tend to vote more Democratic than Republican over economic issues. Freezing to death voters who might support opposing political parties might be good politics but is both un-American and un-Christian. The Republicans in Congress should be kinder to their less fortunate American citizens and try to follow the Christian admonishment to help the poor.
These same Republican politicians are supporting cuts in food assistance and health care programs for poor Americans. The results will eventually be the same for some fellow American citizens. They will die earlier and have more unhealthy lives. Is this what America should be doing this Christmas?

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NYT: Three takes on the issues raised by revelations of Bully Boy using the NSA for domestic spying

The National Security Agency has traced and analyzed large volumes of telephone and Internet communications flowing into and out of the United States as part of the eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity, according to current and former government officials.
The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said.
[. . .]
This so-called "pattern analysis" on calls within the United States would, in many circumstances, require a court warrant if the government wanted to trace who calls whom.
The use of similar data-mining operations by the Bush administration in other contexts has raised strong objections, most notably in connection with the Total Information Awareness system, developed by the Pentagon for tracking terror suspects, and the Department of Homeland Security's Capps program for screening airline passengers. Both programs were ultimately scrapped after public outcries over possible threats to privacy and civil liberties.

The above excerpt is from Eric Lichtblau and James Risen's "Spy Agency Mined Vast Data Trove, Officials Report" in this morning's New York Times. Today they attempt to address the issue of spying, the paper does, from several different perspectives and are far more successful than they were earlier this week. Lichtblau and Risen are breaking news (at least for the Times, I haven't gone through the Washington Post yet this morning and am not taking any phone calls due to a killer headache). Their report is rounded out with two other articles on this topic.

A second one, Richard W. Stevenson's "Congress Never Authorized Spying Effort, Daschle Says," addresses news that broke via the op-ed pages of the Washington Post so the Times is playing catch up. From Stevenson's article:

In an op-ed article published Friday in The Washington Post, Mr. Daschle said he rejected a White House effort three days after the attacks to grant Mr. Bush specific authority to conduct antiterrorism operations within the United States as part of a broader resolution backing the use of force.
In seeking the specific authority for a domestic response, Mr. Daschle said, the White House was effectively acknowledging that the resolution did not cover domestic actions like spying on Americans.
"The Bush administration now argues those powers were inherently contained in the resolution adopted by Congress - but at the time, the administration clearly felt they weren't or it wouldn't have tried to insert the additional language," Mr. Daschle said in the article.

Daschle's comments refute the Bully Boy's assertion that the acts passed by Congress immediately following 9/11 gave him the power to utilize the NSA to spy on American citizens.

The third article explores the beliefs of a Court nominee on this topic -- Adam Liptak and David E. Rosenbaum's "Alito Memo in '84 Favored Immunity for Top Officials:"

The attorney general should be immune from lawsuits for ordering wiretaps of Americans without permission from a court, Samuel A. Alito Jr., President Bush's Supreme Court nominee, wrote in a memorandum in 1984 as a government lawyer in the Reagan administration.
The memorandum, released yesterday by the National Archives, made recommendations concerning a lawsuit against former Attorney General John N. Mitchell over a wiretap he had authorized without a court's permission in 1970. The government was investigating a plot to destroy underground utility tunnels in Washington and to kidnap Henry A. Kissinger, the national security adviser.

Did your mouth drop? Mine too. Outside of Jill St. John, was anyone interested in Henry Kissinger in the seventies? (That was a joke a house guest wanted put in.)

Back to the article:

In his 1984 memorandum, Judge Alito urged his superiors to await a different legal vehicle, presumably one not tied to the abuses of the Nixon administration, to make the argument that top officials were free to violate the law.
"Our chances of persuading the court to accept an absolute immunity argument would probably be improved in a case involving a less controversial official and a less controversial era," he wrote.
In the end, the superiors rejected his advice to appeal on just a procedural question. As predicted, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that Mr. Mitchell should have absolute immunity.

So the Alito hearings might be very interesting. It's been argued before (by many people, in many forums) that Bully Boy's choice of nominees (especially Harriet Miers) is based solely on whether or not they will cover his ass from the bench. Apparently, Alito's a good prospect for providing cover. (Though once on the bench, some justices have proven surprisingly independent -- lifetime appointments can cure the need to suck up.)

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Bush aprueba espionaje telefónico a ciudadanos estadounidenses sin orden judicial

Francisco: Hola mis amigos y amigas. Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano Nuevo 2006. El jefe "Bully Boy" Bush tuvo una semana muy mala. Aqui estan once "Democracy Now!" las noticias.

Bush aprueba espionaje telefónico a ciudadanos estadounidenses sin orden judicial
El Presidente Bush admitió que secretamente ordenó a la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional escuchar las conversaciones de los ciudadanos estadounidenses sin siquiera solicitar las órdenes aprobadas por el Poder Judicial que exige la Constitución. Al comienzo, el Presidente se negó a contestar cualquier pregunta sobre el programa secreto, pero el sábado habló abiertamente sobre el asunto y defendió esa práctica.
El Presidente Bush dijo: "Yo autoricé a la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional, consecuentemente con la ley estadounidense y la Constitución, a interceptar las comunicaciones internacionales de personas de las que se sabe que tienen vínculos con al Qaeda y organizaciones terroristas que están relacionadas con ese grupo".
Esta revelación surgió solo días después de que NBC News informó que el Pentágono expandió ampliamente sus operaciones de vigilancia en Estados Unidos, entre las que se encontraba la vigilancia de los manifestantes pacíficos en contra de la guerra.

Senador Leahy: No más ordenes secretas, tribunales secretos y tortura secreta
Muchos expertos legales acusaron al Presidente de infringir la ley al ordenar que se realizaran escuchas telefónicas sin la orden judicial requerida por la Ley de Vigilancia de Inteligencia Extranjera.
El Senador demócrata Patrick Leahy de Vermont dijo: "Este programa de espionaje de conversaciones sin una orden no está autorizado por la Ley Patriota, no está autorizado por ninguna ley del Congreso, y no está supervisado por ningún tribunal. Y según informes, fue llevado a cabo por una orden secreta del Presidente, basada en opiniones legales secretas del mismo Departamento de Justicia, de abogados que secretamente argumentaron que el presidente podía ordenar la utilización de la tortura. Señor Presidente, ya es hora de tener algunos controles y contrapesos en este país, somos una democracia. Somos una democracia. Tengamos controles y contrapesos, no órdenes secretas y tribunales secretos y tortura secreta, y así sucesivamente".

El FBI espió a Greenpeace, PETA y Catholic Worker
En Washington, documentos que se dieron a conocer recientemente indican que agentes antiterroristas del Buró Federal de Investigaciones (FBI) han estado vigilando a grupos activistas entre los que se encuentran Greenpeace, Catholic Worker (Trabajador Católico), el Comité Árabe-Estadounidense contra la discriminación y PETA (Gente por el Trato Ético a los Animales). Los documentos indican que el FBI controló las manifestaciones organizadas por estos grupos y utilizo informantes confidenciales dentro de las organizaciones para obtener información. En un caso, registros del gobierno muestran que el FBI lanzó una investigación sobre PETA por terrorismo, en Norfolk, Virginia. Según el "Washington Post", los documentos no ofrecen pruebas sobre la vinculación de PETA con actividades ilegales. Pero más de 100 páginas de expedientes del FBI severamente censuradas indican que la agencia utilizó informantes secretos y vigiló las actividades de este grupo por años. El FBI también controló actividades políticas en los predios universitarios. Un expediente del FBI contenía una lista de contactos de estudiantes y activistas por la paz que asistieron a una conferencia en la Universidad de Stanford en 2002, con el objetivo de terminar con las sanciones que se aplicaban en aquel entonces a Irak. Esta es la tercera gran revelación que se produjo recientemente sobre espionaje en Estados Unidos. La semana pasada, NBC News reveló que el Pentágono ha estado vigilando a activistas pacíficos en contra de la guerra, y el "New York Times" expuso como el Presidente Bush ordenó a la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional (NSA, por sus siglas en inglés) espiar las conversaciones de los ciudadanos estadounidenses sin órdenes aprobadas por el Poder Judicial. Ann Beeson, de la Unión Estadounidense por las Libertades Civiles (ACLU, por su siglas en inglés) dijo: "Esta claro que este gobierno utilizó todas las agencias posibles, desde el Pentágono hasta la NSA y el FBI, para espiar a los ciudadanos estadounidenses".

Daschle: Al gobierno de Bush se le negó autoridad para conducir espionajes
En Washington, el ex líder de la Minoría del Senado, Tom Daschle, reveló detalles antes desconocidos que ponen en duda las afirmaciones del gobierno de Bush de que tiene autoridad legal para espiar a los ciudadanos estadounidenses y extranjeros en Estados Unidos. La Casa Blanca dice que la autoridad le fue otorgada implícitamente en la resolución conjunta del Congreso que autorizaba la utilización de la fuerza poco después de los atentados del 11 de septiembre. Pero en la edición de hoy del "Washington Post", Daschle asegura que el gobierno de Bush solicitó sin éxito la autoridad que ahora dice que le fue otorgada.
El ex líder de la minoría del Senado, Tom Daschle, dijo: "Literalmente minutos antes de que el Senado votara, el gobierno pidió que se incorporaran las palabras 'en Estados Unidos y' después 'fuerza adecuada' al texto. Este cambio de último momento le hubiera otorgado al presidente gran autoridad para ejercer poderes ampliados no sólo en el extranjero, donde todos entendimos que quería autoridad para actuar, sino también aquí mismo, en Estados Unidos, potencialmente contra ciudadanos estadounidenses. No pude ver ninguna justificación para que el Congreso accediera a ese pedido extraordinario de autoridad adicional. Yo me rehusé".

Departamento de Justicia admite que programa de espionaje no cumple con FISA
Esa revelación surgió mientras el Departamento de Justicia admitía que el programa de espionaje del Presidente no cumple la Ley de Vigilancia de Inteligencia Extranjera (FISA, por sus siglas en inglés). Junto con otro estatuto de espionaje telefónico, FISA se define a si misma como: "los medios exclusivos mediante los cuales la vigilancia electrónica (...) puede ser llevada a cabo". Esta admisión fue realizada el jueves en una carta al Congreso.

Jueces de Tribunal de Supervisión elaboran documento sobre programa de espionaje
En otras noticias, el Washington Post informa que el juez que preside el Tribunal de Supervisión de Inteligencia en el Extranjero convocó a otros jueces integrantes de ese organismo a una reunión informativa, acerca de la revelación de que el presidente Bush autorizó espionaje interno sin órdenes judiciales, que solamente ese Tribunal puede emitir. La noticia surge luego de que uno de los diez jueces que presiden el Tribunal, James Roberston, presentó su renuncia el lunes como medida de protesta.

Juez del Tribunal de Supervisión renuncia en protesta por el programa de espionaje de Bush
Esta noticia es sobre el programa de espionaje del gobierno de Bush en Estados Unidos. El "Washington Post" informa que un juez renunció al principal tribunal para casos de espionaje del país, en protesta por el programa secreto por el que la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional ha espiado las conversaciones de los ciudadanos estadounidenses sin órdenes aprobadas por el Poder Judicial. El Juez de Distrito estadounidense James Robertson, uno de los once miembros del tribunal secreto de Supervisión de Inteligencia Extranjera (FISC, por sus siglas en inglés) secreto, presentó su renuncia el lunes. Robertson presuntamente pensó que la legalidad del programa era cuestionable y que podía haber perjudicado el trabajo del tribunal, que es considerado la única autoridad competente para autorizar espionajes telefónicos en Estados Unidos.

Bush dijo en 2004 que el espionaje telefónico podía realizarse únicamente con la aprobación del Poder Judicial
El gobierno de Bush argumentó que el programa es legal, en el marco de la autorizaciones para operaciones de vigilancia otorgada por el Congreso al Poder Ejecutivo poco después del los atentados del 11 de septiembre. Pero en abril del año pasado, el Presidente Bush dijo a periodistas que el espionaje telefónico sólo podía realizarse si el Poder Judicial lo aprobaba.
El Presidente Bush, 20 de abril de 2004: "Ahora, por cierto, cada vez que escuchen al gobierno de Estados Unidos hablar de espionaje telefónico, esto requiere, el espionaje telefónico requiere, una orden del Poder Judicial. Nada ha cambiado, por cierto. Cuando hablamos de perseguir a los terroristas, hablamos de obtener una orden judicial antes de hacerlo".
La Casa Blanca dice ahora que Bush se refería sólo a las acciones que se realizaran en el marco de la Ley Patriota.

Informe: Espionaje controlaba exclusivamente comunicaciones dentro de Estados Unidos
Mientras tanto, el "New York Times" informa que el programa de espionaje controló comunicaciones que eran exclusivamente nacionales, a pesar de las que altos funcionarios del gobierno afirmaron recientemente que las comunicaciones interceptadas eran con el extranjero. Funcionarios del gobierno dijeron al "Times" que las intercepciones fueron “accidentales”.
A principio de esta semana, el General Michael V. Hayden, ex director de la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional (NSA, por sus siglas en inglés) y actualmente el segundo funcionario al mando en la inteligencia del país, dijo a periodistas: "Puedo asegurarles, por la parte física de la intercepción, por cómo llevamos a cabo nuestras actividades, que estas comunicaciones son siempre con lugares fuera de Estados Unidos".
El Procurador General Alberto R. Gonzales lo reafirmó y dijo: "La gente anda diciendo por ahí que Estados Unidos está de alguna manera espiando a los ciudadanos estadounidenses cuando hablan con sus vecinos. (Es) muy, muy importante entender que las comunicaciones deben ser con alguien fuera de Estados Unidos".

Informe: Departamento de Policía de Nueva York envió agentes encubiertos a protestas, manifestaciones y vigilia
El "New York Times" dice que obtuvo vídeos que muestran al Departamento de Policía de Nueva York realizando vigilancia a través de oficiales de incógnito durante protestas en contra de la guerra, manifestaciones en bicicleta e incluso en una vigilia callejera realizada en honor a un ciclista muerto. Los oficiales sostenían símbolos de protesta, llevaban flores junto a los que estaban de luto, montaban bicicletas, y filmaban a los presentes.
En un caso, el arresto simulado de un oficial encubierto durante una manifestación fuera de la Convención Nacional Republicana provocó un grave enfrentamiento entre la policía antidisturbios y transeúntes, que terminó en el arresto de dos personas. Los transeúntes habían gritado "Déjenlo ir". El "Times" dice que las filmaciones muestran a por lo menos 10 agentes encubiertos participando en siete reuniones públicas desde la Convención Republicana de agosto de 2004.

Juez federal dice que detenciones en Guantánamo son "ilícitas"Esta noticia proviene de Bahía de Guantánamo. El Washington Post informa que un juez federal dictaminó que el arresto de dos personas de la etnia uighur en esa prisión estadounidense es "ilícito", pero dice que no tiene competencia para liberarlos. El jueves, el juez de distrito estadounidense James Roberston dijo que el gobierno ha demorado demasiado en liberar a Abu Bakker Qassim y a Adel Abdu Hakim, que han estado en prisión durante cuatro años. Se dio curso a la liberación de ambos, pero no los enviaron de regreso a China, donde se considera probable que sean torturados o ejecutados. Los dos hombres están entre nueve reclusos que permanecen detenidos en Guantánamo a pesar de que se ha declarado que "ya no son combatientes enemigos". En el fallo, el juez Robertson escribió: "El uso que hace el gobierno del término kafkiano 'ya no son combatientes enemigos' hace surgir deliberadamente la pregunta acerca de si los apelantes alguna vez fueron combatientes enemigos."

Francisco: Hello, friends. Season's greetings. Here in English are thirteen headlines from Democracy Now! Why thirteen? The Spanish headlines lumped three together into one. So there are eleven headlines in Spanish and thirteen in English.

Bush Okd Secret Wiretapping of Americans Without Warrants
President Bush has admitted that he secretly ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without ever seeking constitutionally required court approved warrants. The president initially refused to answer any questions about the secret program but on Saturday he spoke openly about it and defended the practice
President Bush: "I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations."
The admission came just days after NBC News reported the Pentagon has vastly expanded its domestic surveillance operations including the monitoring of peaceful anti-war protesters.

Sen. Leahy: No More Secret Orders, Secret Courts, Secret Torture
Many legal experts have accused the President of breaking the law by ordering the wiretappings without a court warrant as required under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT): "This warrant-less eavesdropping program is not authorized by the patriot act, it's not authorized by any act of congress, and it's not overseen by any court. And according to reports it has been conducted under a secret presidential order, based on secret legal opinions by the same justice department, lawyers who argued secretly, that the president could order the use of torture. Mr. President, it is time to have some checks and balances in this country, we are a democracy. We are a democracy. Let's have checks and balances, not secret orders and secret courts and secret torture, and on and on."

FBI Spied on Greenpeace, PETA, Catholic Worker
In Washington, newly released documents show counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been monitoring domestic activist groups including Greenpeace, Catholic Worker, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and PETA, the People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The documents indicate the F.B.I. monitored protests organized by the groups and used confidential informants inside the organizations to gain intelligence. In one case, government records show the FBI launched a terrorism investigation of PETA in Norfolk, Virginia.

Documents Show FBI Agents Tracked PETA For Years
According to the Washington Post, the documents offer no proof of PETA's involvement in illegal activity. But more than 100 pages of heavily censored FBI files show the agency used secret informants and tracked the group's events for years. The FBI also monitored political activities on college campuses. One FBI file included a contact list for students and peace activists who attended a 2002 conference at Stanford University aimed at ending sanctions then in place in Iraq.

Reports Expose Growing Domestic Surveillance
This is the third major recent revelation about domestic spying. Last week NBC News revealed the Pentagon has been monitoring peaceful anti-war protesters and the New York Times exposed how President Bush ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without court-approved warrants. Ann Beeson, of the American Civil Liberties Union said "It's clear that this administration has engaged every possible agency, from the Pentagon to N.S.A. to the F.B.I., to engage in spying on Americans."

Daschle: Bush Administration Was Denied Spy Authority
In Washington, former Senate Minority leader Tom Daschle has disclosed previously unknown details that challenge the Bush administration's claim it has legal authority to eavesdrop on Americans and foreign nationals in the US. The White House says the authority was implicitly granted in the joint Congressional resolution authorizing the use of force passed shortly after 9/11. But in today's Washington Post, Daschle claims the Bush administration requested, but was denied, the authority it now claims it was granted.
Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle: "Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words 'in the United States and' after 'appropriate force' in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused."

Justice Dept. Admits Spy Program Does Not Comply With FISA
The disclosure comes as the Justice Department has admitted that the President's eavesdropping program does not comply with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Along with another wiretapping statute, FISA defines itself as: "the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance . . . may be conducted." The admission came in a letter to Congress Thursday.

Surveillance Court Judges To Hold Briefing on Espionage Program
In other news, the Washington Post is reporting the presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has arranged a briefing for fellow judges to address the revelation President Bush authorized domestic-spying without court warrants only they can approve. The news comes as one of the court’s 10 presiding judges, James Robertson, submitted his resignation in protest Monday.

Surveillance Court Judge Resigns in Protest of Bush Spy Program
This news on the Bush administration’s domestic espionage program: the Washington Post is reporting a judge has resigned from the country’s top spy court in protest of the secret program in which the National Security Agency has eavesdropped on Americans without court-approved warrants. U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, submitted his resignation Monday. The court is regarded as the only authority to authorize wire-taps for domestic espionage.

Bush in 2004: "Wiretap Requires A Court Order"
President Bush has argued eavesdropping without court-approved warrants is legal under authority granted by Congress shortly after 9/11. But in April of last year President Bush told reporters wire-taps were only conducted with court approval.
President Bush, April 20, 2004: "Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."
The White House is now claiming Bush was referring only to actions taken under the Patriot Act.

Report: Espionage Monitored Purely Domestic Communications
Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting the espionage program monitored communications that were entirely domestic -- despite recent assurances from top administration officials that one end of the intercepted communications came from abroad. Government officials told the Times the intercepts were "accidental."
Earlier this week, former NSA director Gen. Michael V. Hayden, currently the second-ranking intelligence official in the country, told reporters: "I can assure you, by the physics of the intercept, by how we actually conduct our activities, that one end of these communications are always outside the United States."
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales made the same claim: "People are running around saying that the United States is somehow spying on American citizens calling their neighbors. [Its] very, very important to understand that one party to the communication has to be outside the United States."

Report: NYPD Planted Undercover Agents At Protests, Rallies, Vigil
The New York Times says it has obtained videotapes that show the New York Police Department conducting surveillance by planting undercover officers at anti-war protests, bike rallies, and even a street vigil for a dead cyclist. The officers held protest signs, held flowers with mourners, rode their bicycles – and videotaped the people present.
In one case, the faked arrest of an undercover officer at a demonstration outside the Republican National Convention led to a serious confrontation between riot police and bystanders that led to the arrest of two people. The bystanders had shouted “Let him go!” The Times says the tapes show at least 10 undercover operatives taking part in seven public gatherings since the Republican Convention in August 2004.

Federal Judge Calls Gitmo Detentions "Unlawful" This news on Guantanamo Bay: the Washington Post is reporting a federal judge has ruled the detention of two ethnic Uighurs at the U.S. prison is "unlawful", but says he does not have the authority to release them. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge James Robertson said the government has taken too long to release Abu Bakker Qassim and Adel Abdu Hakim -- who have been jailed for four years. The two have been cleared for release, but not returned to China where they would likely face torture or execution.. The two men are among nine detainees that remain at Guantanamo despite having been declared "no longer enemy combatants." In his ruling, Judge Robertson wrote: "The government's use of the Kafka-esque term 'no longer enemy combatants' deliberately begs the question of whether these petitioners ever were enemy combatants."

The Laura Flanders Show this weekend: Kim Gandy, Cindy Sheehan, Malik Rahim, Bill Quigley, Reg Keys, Jordan Flaherty, Doug Anderson, Garland Robinette

Martha gives us the heads up to this weekend's The Laura Flanders Show. Both broadcasts are repeats so if you missed Bill Quigley, Kim Gandy, Malik Rahim, Jordan Flaherty, Doug Anderson, Rev. Lennonx Yearwood, Cindy Sheehan and Reg Keys, this is your chance to hear them. Carl also e-mailed to encourage people to "at the very least have the show on in the background while you have friends and family over." Here's the lineup and I'm guessing (I could be wrong) that the New Orleans show will air tonight and that the one from Crawford will air Sunday.

BEST of The Laura Flanders Show
On Air America Radio, 7-10 PM EST
Two of Our Best Remote Broadcasts:

Live from New Orleans, November 6th
MALIK RAHIM, a veteran public housing organizer and now mayoral candidate in New Orleans, BILL QUIGLEY, director of the Loyola University Law Clinic and Gillis Long Poverty Law Center, JORDAN FLAHERTY from "Left Turn" magazine and GARLAND ROBINETTE, Host on NOLA's Radio station WWL, DOUG ANDERSON of The People's Institute in NOLA, KIM GANDY, President of NOW and Hip Hop Caucus CEO Rev. LENNOX YEARWOOD on their plans for the Gretna Bridge March on Monday.

Live from Crawford, Texas, August 27th
This was the last climactic weekend before anti-war leader
CINDY SHEEHAN left protest outside the president's ranch to go to Washington to push for bringing the troops home. Sheehan, Iraq war veterans, and British Gold Star dad REG KEYS, and others are featured. Air America's only live broadcast from Crawford!

You can listen to shows you missed: Download archived shows HERE or Subscribe to the Free PODCAST through the iTunes Music Store
Go to the Laura Flanders Blog

"Now how do I listen to The Laura Flanders Show?" Via podcast (as noted above), via broadcast radio (if there's an AAR in your area), via XM Satellite Radio (channel 167) or listen online.

We have additional entries going up. I'm working on the Times entries right now (going through the e-mails for highlights). We've got Francisco choosing important Democracy Now! headlines for the week which will probably go up next. I have to copy and paste Ruth's entry and Kat's. If they end up being slow going up, blame it on (a) publishing and republishing entries over and over to make them read by technorati and (b) I have a killer migraine. So things may be slow going up but they are going up.

The e-mail address for this site is

Friday, December 23, 2005

Democracy Now: Noam Chomsky; Matthew Rothschild, Ellen Goodman, J.L. Chestnut Jr., NOW

Jailed Environmental Activist Bill Rodgers Dead of Apparent Suicide
In other news, Bill Rodgers, an Arizona environmentalist and bookstore owner has died in his prison cell just two weeks after his arrest. Rodgers was one of six activists picked up by the FBI on December 7. They were all accused of setting a series of arsons in the Pacific Northwest that had been linked to the Earth Liberation Front. Prison officials are calling Rodger's death a suicide. A medical examiner say Rodgers died of asphyxiation after he placed a plastic bag over his head. Rodgers was 40 years old. He was best known in Prescott, Arizona for running the Catalyst infoshop.

Daschle: Bush Administration Was Denied Spy Authority
In Washington, former Senate Minority leader Tom Daschle has disclosed previously unknown details that challenge the Bush administration's claim it has legal authority to eavesdrop on Americans and foreign nationals in the US. The White House says the authority was implicitly granted in the joint Congressional resolution authorizing the use of force passed shortly after 9/11. But in today's Washington Post, Daschle claims the Bush administration requested, but was denied, the authority it now claims it was granted.
Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle: "Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words 'in the United States and' after 'appropriate force' in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused."

Federal Judge Calls Gitmo Detentions "Unlawful"
This news on Guantanamo Bay: the Washington Post is reporting a federal judge has ruled the detention of two ethnic Uighurs at the U.S. prison is "unlawful", but says he does not have the authority to release them. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge James Robertson said the government has taken too long to release Abu Bakker Qassim and Adel Abdu Hakim -- who have been jailed for four years. The two have been cleared for release, but not returned to China where they would likely face torture or execution.. The two men are among nine detainees that remain at Guantanamo despite having been declared "no longer enemy combatants." In his ruling, Judge Robertson wrote: "The government's use of the Kafka-esque term 'no longer enemy combatants' deliberately begs the question of whether these petitioners ever were enemy combatants."

The above three items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Lily, Durham Gal and Rob (Rob adds that "It is that Judge Robertson" meaning the one who stepped down from the FISA court this week). Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for December 23, 2005
- Public Transit Resumes As NYC Strike Ends On Third Day
- Jailed Environmental Activist Bill Rodgers Dead of Apparent Suicide
- Suspect's Lawyer Says Fellow Detainee Has Turned Informant
- Daschle: Bush Administration Was Denied Spy Authority
- Justice Dept. Admits Spy Program Does Not Comply With FISA
- House Rejects Senate-White House Compromise On Patriot Act
- Report: Indicted Lobbyist To Testify Against Associates in Plea Deal
- Federal Judge Calls Gitmo Detentions "Unlawful"
- California Jury Awards $172M to Wal-Mart Employees

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

Noam Chomsky v. Alan Dershowitz: A Debate on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
We bring you a debate between Noam Chomsky and Alan Dershowtiz on the question, "Israel and Palestine After Disengagement: Where Do We Go From Here?" Dershowitz argued for a political solution based on an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian towns and a mobile security fence to protect Israel's borders, while Chomsky insisted that the main obstacle to peace in the region is U.S.-Israeli insistence on maintaining settlements and rejecting minimal Palestinian rights. They faced off at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government last month. [includes rush transcript]

Noam Chomsky and the ticking time bomb Alan Dershowitz. (Oh wait, that's Dershowitz's argument, he just sounds likes a ticking time bomb as his voice grows louder and louder and more metallic throughout the debate. Keep a hand near the volume control if you listen or watch. Transcript readers should be fine.)

First highlight comes via Lynda who says, "I know it's not Thanksgiving but just FYI, I'm thankful to have Matthew Rothschild's strong voice in these dark times." Lynda notes Rothschild's "Keep Rumsfeld in Iraq, Bring Troops Home" (This Just In, The Progressive):

Now Bush talks of "complete victory." And in his ever simplistic formulations, he poses another either/or. It's no longer, "You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists."
Now it's, "You're either for victory, or you're for defeat."
Well, victory is not around the corner, and the insurgency--don't tell Cheney--is not in its last throes.
We've lost 2,155 soldiers so far in Iraq. By next Christmas, that number may be close to 3,000.
Rumsfeld is in Iraq right now.
He should stay there.
Bring everybody else home.

Markus also finds something "that had me shouting 'Amen!' as I read it" -- Ellen Goodman's
"Bush's False Choices" (The Boston Globe via Common Dreams):

We have been handed yet another in an endless series of false choices. Those who don't blindly trust the president are dismissed as amnesia victims. Americans who don't connect the dots from 9/11 to Iraq or spying or torture are cast as actors living in a foolish, fearless, fantasy world. Indeed, 9/11 was the day the president became the commander in chief. The words he often repeats were spoken to him by a rescue worker at the World Trade Center: ''Whatever it takes."
If there are Americans who have actually forgotten the attacks in all their searing horror, I don't know any. I remember the weeks when I would wake up and reach for the remote to see if we'd caught Osama. When did that expectation fade? I remember the just pursuit of Al Qaeda into its safety zone, Afghanistan. And the satisfaction in overthrowing the Taliban.
But gradually, 9/11 became the all-purpose excuse for . . . whatever it takes. The war in Iraq was conflated with the war on terror, and preemptive strikes were launched against weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist. In ''The Assassin's Gate," George Packer, a liberal hawk, tries to assess why the United States really did invade Iraq. ''It still isn't possible to be sure -- and this remains the most remarkable thing about the Iraq War," he writes. ''Iraq is the Rashomon of wars" and all he can conclude is that it ''has something to do with September 11."
As recently as last February, 47 percent of Americans still believed that Saddam had something to do with 9/11. Does the White House accuse its supporters of false memory?
And what of the president himself? In his news conference, he angrily attacked those who leaked the spy story. He asked reporters to guess what happened the last time there was a similar security leak. Then he stumbled over the answer, ''Saddam . . . Osama bin Laden changed his behavior." Memory loss?
Those who criticize the commander in chief wonder if he is the one who's forgotten 9/11. Has he forgotten when the country was united? Has he forgotten when the world was on our side? Has he forgotten that we were the good guys?

Billie e-mails to note J.L. Chestnut, Jr.'s "What White America Doesn't Hear" (CounterPunch):

Millions of American citizens are Muslims and they live and work all over the country. Some died in the attacks on September 11th. Nevertheless, some Americans believe, as I do, that notwithstanding what the president said the U.S. would make continuous war against Arabs and Muslims generally. We believe that is true because a racist component has always deeply infected this nation's foreign policy and virtually everything else. Likewise, African-Americans always have reservations and misgivings about America's foreign policy that one seldom, if ever, hears in white America.
James Baldwin, celebrated black novelist and playwright, spent part of 1965 in a backroom at my law office helping finance black protest marches. In 1962, he wrote the celebrated novel,
Another Country, in which he described a nation occupied by blacks and situated alongside the United States. This nation was seldom visited, seldom consulted and seldom reported upon by whites except when it disrupted or disturbed the white nation next door that it mirrors. To white people, black citizens living in this parallel country were shadows, creatures glanced at out of car windows, over the shoulder, tolerated, feared, and despised. Blacks were viewed as a problem, as an issue.
Baldwin understood that many white Americans and even some African-Americans do not feel that blacks are really Americans. In truth, some African-Americans deep down only see themselves as black in America and many working class, lower middle class Muslim Americans also do not feel they are American. These people were as shaken by 9/11 as anyone and they do not condone that cowardly attack but unlike many white Americans they can understand why it happened and when they hear Arabs and Muslims around the world say this country got what was coming to it, these American Muslims want to yell, "Which America are you talking about? Certainly not mine."

Trina (yes, Mike's mother) notes NOW's "Women and Abortions: The Reasoning Behind the Decision:"

A woman's decision to have an abortion is "motivated by multiple, diverse and interrelated reasons," according to a recently released study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which conducted a structured survey of 1,209 abortion patients at 11 large abortion providers nationwide, in addition to in-depth interviews.
Seventy-four percent of the women said that having a child would interfere with their ability to care for other dependents or with their ability to work or complete their education. Nearly half said that they did not want to be a single mother or that they were having relationship problems. One fourth said if they had another child it would hinder their capability to raise their existing children and/or children they plan to have in the future; another 23% of the women said they simply could not afford to have a/another child.
Younger women frequently stated that they were not prepared for the transition to motherhood and older women often said that they were already obligated to care for dependents and/or had already completed their childbearing Generally women offered more than one reason for their decision to have an abortion. These data, which have remained consistent for more than a decade, demonstrate that women make very conscious and rational decisions about choosing abortion, after a thoughtful examination of their present ability to care for a child, or another child.
Despite the repeated studies and clear evidence regarding women's decision-making, misperceptions still exist and continue to be reinforced by those who oppose abortion for any reason. The evidence proves what we have said all along: that women do not take lightly the decision to have an abortion.

Shirley asks that we note that Mike, Elaine, Rebecca and Wally have been posting all week at their sites. Kat's posted this morning (at her site, we'll note the review in a moment), Cedric plans to post this evening or tomorrow. The Third Estate Sunday Review will post a new edition Sunday. Betty says if her latest chapter isn't up by Saturday afternoon, don't complain to her "because I'll be raking myself over the coals enough for everyone." (The real Thomas Friedman's return to the op-ed pages Wednesday resulted in Betty reworking her latest chapter.) Seth also hopes to have something us this weekend.

Kat's latest went up (here) this morning, "Kat's Korner: Breaking through the 'conventional truths' with No Secrets." Members have gone crazy over this one (all e-mails have been forwarded to Kat). Eli writes to say thank you to Kat for writing about the album that's been so important to his granddaughter and his late wife and him (as well as his great-grandaughter now). (Wally talked to Eli and discusses it in his entry this morning.) Other members have shared their own memories of that time period (early seventies) or of the album itself. Marcia seems to speak for many when she writes, "Welcome back, Kat! We need your strong voice and your continued tackling of the intersection of music and the world around us!"

To that I'll add that I'm as thrilled as the community with Kat's writing. She's a strong voice and this community is lucky to have her. Remember that she will have a commentary up here Saturday and Sunday. Three days in a row of Kat's strong critiques, that's reason for holiday cheer.

Also let me note a heads up to Elaine's forthcoming entry at Like Maria Said Paz. We spoke about it this afternoon on the phone and I'm biting my tongue not to spoil it but she will be posting it either tonight or tomorrow. (She's calling around to see who's posting Saturday. Based on how many community sites are posting Saturday versus today, it will run today or tomorrow.) So look for (and forward) to that.

The e-mail address for this site is

Kat's Korner: Breaking through the "conventional truths" with No Secrets

[Note: This is Kat's latest and the first of three musical commentaries that will run here each morning through Sunday. Kat reviewed Carly Simon's Moonlight Serenade last July.]

1972. Thirty-three years ago.

November. The election had taken place. Nixon had won and democracy had lost out. At least for a little while.

Carly Simon had campaigned for the Democratic candidate for president, George McGovern. Now her latest album was coming out. No Secrets.

Maybe the album could be read another way if McGovern had won? No Secrets . . . because Nixon's out of the White House!

Tricky Dick had more secrets than Keith Richards had guitar licks.

The album reflected a mood in the country, a restless desire, a refusal to follow the conventions and stay silent. Of the ten songs, Carly wrote seven by herself. On two, Jacob Brackman provided the lyrics to Carly's music. One song was written by new hubbie James Taylor.

Even that cover song fit the mood of the album because Carly was singing the song ("Night Owl") without altering the words. "I'm a night owl, honey . . ." A few holdouts still tsked-tsked when that sort of statement came from a woman back then. (The holdouts appear to have been cloned with a vengeance these days.)

Brackman was a lyricist very in tune with Simon's approach. They'd hit before with "That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be." Because that song seems to so closely reflect Carly's own life, many assume she wrote the lyrics. Wrong. She wrote the music. (Actually wrote it as an intended theme for a special called Who Killed Lake Erie?) On No Secrets, Brackman penned the lyrics to "The Carter Family" (no, not that Carter family -- it was 1972, not 1976) and "It Was So Easy Then."

Richard Perry produced the album. Carly played piano and acoustic guitar. And, of course, she sang on the album. If you look at the tracks and have even a loose grasp of Carly's music, you'll probably immediately think "Mick Jagger!" He sings backup on the monster hit "You're So Vain." (Three weeks at number one, for those in need of statistics.) Here's some trivia you can toss out that only the dedicated know: Paul & Linda McCartney sing backup on "It Was So Easy Then."

So that's your stats and your trivia. Let's get to what's important.

No Secrets. That was the album title, from track five "We Have No Secrets." In that song, Carly takes a hard look at the secrets couples can share and how "Sometimes I wish, Oft times I wish, That I never, never knew, Some of those secrets of yours." The Watergate burglary had been in the news. In January of 1973, more news would break. But those invested in a sick relationship with Nixon, they were determined to struggle through life blind. (Some would manage to do so for at least two more years. Some never faced reality and have remained in the dark throughout.)

Again, it was a mood. It's a mood we've seen too much of today. Only cure for it is truth.

No Secrets told the truth about one female's experiences. Not via lyrics that were too clever and fey for their own good, not in words that required a decoder ring. Carly's often stated in interviews that she was more of a reporter. She's that, with the telling eye of a novelist. And she sets out to chart a woman's experience in album form.

You really didn't have that sort of voice on the charts back then. Bless Laura Nyro, but she was always being pursued by the devil to the point that you felt one slip of her high heels and he'd pounce on her. Joni Mitchell seemed to be following Laura two steps behind but running towards something, not away from it. Over in the valley (well, canyon), Carole King was trying to get centered. All three were important voices but it was left to a fourth woman (Carly) to carve out the terrority we'd become more familiar with as years went by.

Tell all my girlfriends
Not to wait for me
Daddy, I'm no virgin
I said I've already waited too long.

Sexuality. Upfront. Spoken to a parent. (Carly's father Richard Simon had passed away many years prior to this song being released, let alone written.) How many young women back then were starting to live confident lives but either still pretending to have the Ann Marie & Donald relationship (honest Mom & Dad, no sex!) that was the bulk of That Girl (the bulk, watch closely) or else entering into some sort of unstated "don't ask, don't tell" precursor where parents didn't raise the issue and the adult children (daughters) pretended that their "virtue" was still intact?

The father figure pops up again in the frightening "Embrace Me, You Child." As Carly notes in that song, "Then one night Daddy died and went to heaven, And God came down to earth and slipped away." Old "truths" were falling apart. Joni Mitchell ("libertine" -- as she's often stated her critics dismissed her as) wrote, early on, as if they never existed. Carly charted their demise.

Three songs conjure wistful memories in words and music. "It Was So Easy Then" looks back to a time when life's biggest requirement was that you "took such cares to step never on the cracks, no only in the squares." By 1972, you were leaving the boxes, leaving the assigned roles. You weren't just stepping on the crack, you were living on it as, similar to today, the nation was splintering. A second song in this wistful mood, "When You Close Your Eyes," declares "You've been walking on the edge of a dream" which immeditately conjures thoughts of the margins -- women's liberation, gay liberation, black power, et al. The struggles, the dreams, were ("Big suprise") things you actively took part in. Point, you weren't dreaming. And "you were never really meant to sleep" -- the world was waking up. In the third of the songs, "His Friends Are More Than Fond of Robin," we learn of a woman who watches the object of her affections from the sidelines ("because I'm shy and can't demand it"). The world was changing, you were a part of it, this was no dream, this was reality. What would reality bring? Some advocating change were nervous about those prospects. (With good reason as the years would prove out since the same struggles are still being fought.)

"The Carter Family" (lyrics by Brackman) traces the changes in one woman's lifetime at that point in history: a friendship that lasted fourteen year ("from rag dolls to brassiers"), the old ways -- represented by a grandmother urging comformity ("nag at me to straighten up my spine, to act respectful . . .") and the arrival of self-determination ("You used to make me moan in bed but that can't be enough") and owning your decisions ("And I find I miss you more than I'd ever have guessed").

Aretha Franklin had already made her plea for "Respect" (while willing to turn over all her money) in the previous decade singing an Otis Redding song. Carly and others built on that. Which is obvious with the song everyone knows, "You're So Vain" (written solely by Carly).

Earlier, Nancy Sinatra had pouted that her boots would walk all over you ("one of these days"), Leslie Gore had whimpered that it was her party and, sob-sob-sob, she could cry if she wanted to. Certainly the rough girls of the Shangri-Las had fought for the right of any woman (they were called girls then or "young ladies") to take up with a guy "from the wrong side of the tracks" (provided he faded from the picture quickly -- usually via death).

In the context of what had come before, "You're So Vain" was a thunder bolt -- the way Alanis Morissette's "You Ought To Know" would be two decades later. Which only shows you how narrow the range women are allowed to express and find chart success with was and still is. Carly was a woman who'd been "had" ("several years ago"). Despite his promises that "he'd never leave," he did leave her but remained in her social orbit. A few decades prior, it would have been cause to stitch the scarlet letter on your sweater or maybe your poodle skirt. Carly was navigating new waters.

The song's not about "you." It's about the damage his ego caused. And Carly's still there (as Alanis would sing years later) "to remind you of the mess you left when you went away." Other songwriters would be viewed as "confessional." It's hard to tell exactly what some were confessing to other than a fondness for word play. Decades later, many of the males of this group would have indirectly confessed to being eternal teenagers who breathlessly wrote of each new relationship and each new breakup as though nothing similar had ever happened in their lives before. Is there anything sadder than a man of forty and older, receding hairline or not, writing yet again of being in love for the very first time?

Of the female singer-songwriters who broke onto the pop charts at that time, Carly was the most upfront -- sexually and otherwise. That was partly due to her alto which had a comforting, lived in tone from the start and would prove to be, as she dropped the Cat Stevens influences, a remarkably flexible instrument. If Grace Slick sung of Alice in Wonderland (or drugs, take your pick) with stone faced determination and voice, Carly's voice moved like a slinky cat. Physically, it was the voice of liberation. Her writer's voice was that as well as she tracked the personal that some of her peers (males and women determined to be accepted on male terms) preferred to avoid.

Armed with that voice, her telling eye (when she writes lyrics) and a strong sense of melody, she's carved out a career that's led to awards (Oscar, Grammys, Golden Globe) and a loyal audience. "Carved out" because she's done it by going with topics others weren't keen to explore at that time. (For instance, "Fair Weather Father.") And done it with a voice that was strong and playful. The voice would never make for an easily rewritten cautionary tale (a trick way too much musical "scholarship" on Janis Joplin pulled off for far too long).

Two released albums preceeded No Secrets, Carly Simon and Anticipation. On both, the talent is there and moments of inspiration. But she's still attempting to find her voice (both physically and lyrically). On No Secrets, she nails it. She is a woman making sense of her world. Not a gender neutral female trying to ease into the boy's club, not a frilly, dainty thing ready to tremble and take direction. The same searching quality that would serve her best work ("Jesse," "Let The River Run," "Coming Around Again," "Scar," et al.) is on full display here.

(Along with some amazing music -- and check out the drums throughout.)

Carly's confessional nature may be seen by some detractors as "compulsive" but it can just as easily be seen as brave. "Let all the dreamers wake the nation" she once sang (and wrote). Her body of work has been a wake up call to popular music that a woman has just as many sides as any man, that the men who can be hailed as brave while writing of "universal" topics like sports aren't as "expanisve" as so many critics assume they are. There was always an underbelly to the world of pop and when a woman tapped into that for a song, she usually ended up with a hit under her belt. Carly's explored the realities that weren't stock topics and she's done so fearlessly.

No Secrets broke through the 'conventional truths' of 1972 and 1973. We could use some more of that bravery today. Truth to power in 2006.

Other Items

In this morning's New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg's "Postponing Debate, Congress Extends Terror Law 5 Weeks" details the extension that keeps the Patriot Act alive for a few more weeks. From the article:

But extending the Patriot Act provided the real drama. Under the measure passed on Thursday, the deadline to reauthorize the Patriot Act moved, from Dec. 31 to Feb. 3, timing that could prove a problem for the White House.
It means that a debate on the law would be in full swing at the same time the Senate starts an inquiry into a secret spying program authorized by President Bush and run by the National Security Agency to monitor international phone calls and international e-mail messages of people in the United States.

The Times also trumpets the possibility that 5,000 troops may be coming home today. While good for the 5,000 (and anymore who are allowed to come home), there's a reality that the Times doesn't touch on. Mia's highlight addresses it, Norman Solomon's "A New Phase of Bright Spinning Lies About Iraq" (Common Dreams):

What's on the horizon for 2006 is that the Bush administration will strive to put any real or imagined reduction of U.S. occupation troop levels in the media spotlight. Meanwhile, the Pentagon will use massive air power in Iraq.
It's a process already underway, as independent journalist Dahr Jamail -- who worked on the ground in Iraq for more than eight months of the U.S. occupation -- pointed out in a mid-December article titled "An Increasingly Aerial Occupation." As he put it: "The American media continues to ignore the increasingly devastating air war being waged in Iraq against an ever more belligerent Iraqi resistance -- and, as usual, Iraqi civilians continue to bear the largely unreported brunt of the bombing."
Yes, we should demand swift withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. But, at this point, to do so without also demanding an end to U.S. bombing of Iraq is to fall into a trap laid by the war makers in Washington. This kind of thing has happened before -- with devastating results for people trying to survive a Pentagon air war that was receiving little U.S. media attention.
The Nixon administration was eager to divert attention from the slaughter in Southeast Asia to peace talks in Paris -- and to the gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam over a period of more than three years. In general the networks were all too willing to oblige.

Dallas asks that we note Richard Fricker's "Holidays, Lobbyists & Murder" (Consortium News) which addresses the Abramoff scandal(s):

The latest wrinkle in this melodrama appears to be the race to the courthouse between Abramoff and his casino co-owner Kidan, who is in the soup with Abramoff for the SunCruz money-laundering and wire-fraud charges. This is a classic race in that he who cuts the first deal wins.
If Kidan can offer up Abramoff and a few congressmen before Abramoff can rat out his congressional minions before Kidan inks a deal, he wins. Or, in the alternative, if they can collectively offer up a bevy of congressmen, Capitol Hill aides and fat-cat contributors, then they both can minimize possible jail time.
The New York Times reported on Dec. 22 that Abramoff was close to completing a plea agreement in the Florida fraud case, setting the stage for him becoming a witness in a broad federal corruption investigation. One participant in the case said a deal could be completed by next week. [NYT, Dec. 22, 2005]
In the meantime, the Fort Lauderdale police and prosecutor Cavanaugh need only wait. If Scanlon, Abramoff and Kidan all agree to "cooperate" with the government in plea-bargaining on white-collar crimes, Cavanaugh will still get his shot at the wheeler-dealers because murder trumps fraud in the prosecutorial world.
Investigators have tried to interview Abramoff about the Boulis case, but those efforts were blocked by his attorneys who refused to volunteer Abramoff's testimony. Cavanaugh has declined to subpoena Abramoff because it might muddy the legal waters should it be decided the GOP fundraiser had some direct knowledge of the Boulis slaying.
Kidan, meanwhile, is rumored to be ready to make his own plea deal and start naming names of politicos who gave, took, hustled funds. Should that happen Congressman Ney can expect more questions about his insertion of comments in the Congressional Record criticizing Boulis for his management of SunCruz when Abramoff and Kidan were trying to buy the company.

Scheduled for today's Democracy Now!:

Don't miss it: The debate between Noam Chomsky and Alan Dershowitz that took place at at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

And coming up on Monday's Democracy Now!:

Monday, December 26:* A dramatic reading of Howard Zinn's Voices of a People's History of the United States. Readers include Josh Brolin, Viggo Mortensen, Sandra Oh, Marisa Tomei and Danny Glover.

That's via Rod who signed up with Democracy Now! for their daily digest e-mail. My apologies to Rod because I didn't note him in the previous entry. I'm running more than slightly behind due to the fact that I was attempting to check a lyric for Kat. And on that, if, like Susan, you're thinking you're crazy, you're not -- or at least not for thinking you briefly saw Kat's latest up here this morning. I apparently hit the publish button and not the save button when I saw the time and realized that it was time to get started on the morning entries. I was copying it in from Kat's e-mail and it needed tags and the last paragraph. (If I go paragraph by paragraph, it's less a nightmare to do spacing then copying it whole and pasting it which causes the whole thing to run together as one block.) It will go up as soon as I can confirm the lyric and can put in tags.
(And can publish and republish this entry so that technorati reads it.)

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