Saturday, December 31, 2005

Other Items

Before we dive into the New York Times (and warning, no head first diving, it's a very shallow pool) this morning, let's first note three items from yesterday's Democracy Now! Headlines that were selected by Lily, Micah and Eli.

Secret Prisons, Renditions Enacted Under Broad CIA Program
The Washington Post is reporting new details of the covert CIA program enacted shortly after 9/11 by the Bush administration. The Post says the program, known by its initials GST, marks the largest CIA covert initiative since the height of the Cold War. It includes a range of controversial programs that have been recently uncovered or subjected to public scrutiny -- including the kidnapping of terror suspects abroad, the maintenance of secret prisons in at least eight foreign countries, the use of interrogation techniques considered illegal under international law, and the operation of a fleet of aircraft to move detainees around the globe.
Powers authorized by President Bush include permitting the CIA to create paramilitary teams to hunt and kill designated individuals anywhere in the world. The Post reports the CIA is working to establish procedures that would allow for the quick cremation of a detainee’s body in the event the detainee dies in custody.
A government official who has been briefed on the program said: "Everything is done in the name of self-defense, so they can do anything because nothing is forbidden in the war powers act. It's an amazing legal justification that allows them to do anything."

Doctor: Jailed Haitian Priest Has Cancer
This news from Haiti -- a US medical doctor has confirmed a colleage’s initial diagnosis that imprisoned Haitian priest Gerard Jean-Juste has cancer. Based on an examination and blood sample he drew from Jean Juste last week, prominent Harvard physician Paul Farmer says Jean-Juste has chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He says the disease is not immediately fatal but can but can develop into a more virulent strain of cancer. Farmer told the Miami Herald: "Father Gerry's in serious trouble if he isn't released from jail for proper work-up in the States.''
Jean-Juste was imprisoned in July on suspicion of involvement in the murder of Haitian journalist Jaques Roches -- a murder that occurred while Jean-Juste was in Miami. He has not been formally charged. Before his arrest, Jean-Juste was considered to be the leading candidate to run for the ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Family Lavalas party in Haiti's upcoming elections. Amnesty International has called him a "prisoner of conscience." Haiti's interim government has insisted Jean-Juste is in fine condition.

Ex-British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Leaks Torture Documents
This news from Britain -- in a strong defiance of the British government, Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, has published confidential documents that show the Foreign Office knowingly obtained information from the Uzbek security forces that was extracted by torture. Murray served as ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004. He was forced out after he openly criticized the British and US governments for supporting human rights abuses under the Uzbek regime.
The documents contain a record of several telegrams Murray sent to his superiors in London during his two years in Uzbekistan. In the telegrams, Murray repeatedly warned that the Uzbek security services were passing on information extracted by torture.
Murray also reveals a legal opinion written by the Foreign Office, which said the British government's reception and possession of information brought about by torture: "does not contain any offence."

Again, the above are from Friday's Democracy Now! and remember that Monday on Democracy Now! part two of their year 2005 review continues. Two of the three items above have some bearing on the paper today. Could be more if the paper weren't so keen on, like those commercials for Sears some time ago, showing their softer side. That must account for Adam Liptak's "So, Guy Walks Up to the Bar, and Scalia Says . . ." which is on the front page. Whenever an article with a similar topic makes the front page of the Times, it might be time for the paper to reconsider being a daily.

Let's deal with Haiti first. Father Jean-Juste was jailed in July. He was not allowed to be a candidate in the upcoming elections because it was decided all candidates must file in person. Jean-Juste remains jail, without charges, almost six months later and those elections? A tiny paragraph on page A8 ("World Briefing") announces that the the January 8th elections have been postponed. This paragraph credited to the Associated Press notes this is the fourth postponement and that no new date has been set. The United States government forced Aristide out. We're still supposed to, officially, pretend that's not the case. It was democracy on the march! Will of the people!

As the vote is postponed for the fourth time, and with the reported acts of violence against those associated with the Lavalos party (not reported in the Times, of course), the Bully Boy administration might have to face tough questioning . . . if we had a working mainstream press.

The item Eli noted from Democracy Now! finally makes it into the Times. What, in a paper that had a sense of a perspective, would be a front page story instead ends up on page A4. Alan Cowell's "Diplomat Says Britain Used Data Gotten by Torture" is fairly straightforward for Cowell (as Pru and James in Brighton both note, with surprise, in their e-mails this morning).

Let's start with the news you can use aspect, the documents are available online. Besides that, what does the Times provide us with that we didn't learn yesterday on Democracy Now!? Not a whole lot. Which might be an argument for the story being buried inside as opposed to front paged. However, this is the paper's first story on the issue and it's more "newsworthy" than Adam Liptak purusing court transcripts to find out where there are indications of laughter in the transcripts. When Howell Raines was editor (executive-editor, the post Bill Keller now holds), he was crucified by many (outside and inside the Times) for running a sociological article on the Britney Spears phenomenon on the front page (of a Sunday edition). Certainly, this Liptak's article is far more embarrassing on the front page today than the article attempting to examine the hysteria around Spears. (Hysteria which has faded, thankfully.) It attempted to put the topic into a sociological perspective, Liptak's article is just a wink and a nod striving so hard to be cute and precious. At best it belongs in the Week in Review on a Sunday. What's the worst we can say about it?

How about this, now that transcripts from the court identify who is speaking from the bench, isn't there something rather shameful that the first time the paper can make use of those documents to provide the public with something of value, they instead think the thing to do is to pour over the transcripts attempting to seek out which Justice got the most laughs?

Back to Cowell's article. Craig Murray is on record speaking to Cowell. The rest of the story revolves around unnamed. "A spokesman for the Foreign Office" tells Cowell that "There is nothing new here."

The most valuable part of Cowell's article (selected by Pru) is the following, from a document written by Murray that's online:

Last year the U.S. gave half a billion dollars in aid to Uzbekistan, about a quarter of it military aid. Bush and Powell repeatedly hail Karimov as a friend and ally. Yet this regime has at least seven thousand prisoners of conscience; it is a one-party state without freedom of speech, without freedom of media, without freedom of movement, without freedom of assembly, without freedom of religion. It practices, systematically, the most hideous tortures on thousands. Most of the population live in conditions precisely analogous with medieval serfdom.

That's from a March 18, 2003 letter by Murray. James in Brighton notes Cowell's own summary of an earlier letter by Murray (one written September 16, 2002):

Mr. Murray said American policy toward President Islam A. Karimov was dictated by the availability of strategic air bases. The State Department gave Uzbekistan a favorable human rights assessment to free up hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, Mr. Murray said.

So remember that a decade or two from now, when the United States government is grumbling about Karimov being a tyrant. Under the Bully Boy, he's been our tyrant.

Susan notes Anne E. Kornblut's "Lobbyist Is Given Deadline To Take Deal or Go to Trial" whcih addresses the government's offer a plea bargain to Jack Abramoff which he must accept or "stand trial in Miami on Jan. 9." Susan wonders if the article is so brief due to the paper's vacation mode?

That's a good question and one that Neil A. Lewis' "Padilla Lawyers Urge Supreme Court to Block Transfer" may also raise. But first, Lewis summarizes the brief filed by Jose Padilla's attornies. From that article, noted by Taylor in an e-mail this morning:

The lawyers acknowledged that Mr. Padilla would prefer to be in civillian custody eventually. But they said it appeared that the only reason for the government's rush to move him was to bolster the administration's efforts to discourage the Supreme Court from reviewing the crucial underlying issue of whether President Bush had the authority to detain Mr. Padilla, an American citizen, as an enemy combatant for more than three years.

Now to Susan's question. The only money maker for the Times in the Bully Boy economy has been their national edition which has actually seen an increase in circulation. Bill Keller has made noises (privately and publicly) about wanting shorter articles leading some at the paper to believe that what he wants is a simple and simplistic paper. (Apparently forgetting that USA Today already corners the market on McNews.) So is this a sign of the paper being on vacation or a sign of things to come? Who knows.

Mike and Wally did a joint entry (posted at both their sites) early this morning selecting Dave Zirin's What's My Name Fool? as the book of the year 2005. (Link to Wally's entry here, link to Mike's entry here.)

Community notes from their entry:

Since it's early in the morning, we'll note that the following sites plan to have new content later tomorrow [C.I. note: that should read "later today" -- they posted this at three in the morning according to the time signature on their posts, so cut them some slack]:
The Common Ills
Like Maria Said Paz
Mikey Likes It!
Other community sites may also have new content but those are confirmed.
In addition, Sunday, check out The Third Estate Sunday Review for the latest edition. It may post later than usual (that's still up in the air) but it will post.
And, in case you missed it, there was new content Friday at the following sites:
The Common Ills
Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills)
Cedric's Big Mix
The Daily Jot
Mikey Likes It!
Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude

As for who will be posting today, I'm assuming that still holds for Elaine and Mike; however, we are about to begin working on the latest edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review, so that may not be the case. What it means, for this site, is that other entries will be delayed. Hopefully, that just means delayed and post later today. At worst, it means they will post tomorrow.

The e-mail address for this site is

NYT: "Criminal Inquiry Opens Into Leak In Eavesdropping" (Scott Shane)

The Justice Department said on Friday that it had opened a criminal investigation into the disclosure of classified information about a secret National Security AGency program under which President Bush authorized eavesdropping on people in the United States without court warrants.
The investigation began in recent days after a formal referral from the N.S.A. regarding the leak, federal officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the investigation.
The program, whose existance was revealed in an article in The New York Times on Dec. 16, has provoked sharp criticism from civil liberties groups, some members of Congress and some former intelligence officials who believe that it circumvents the law governing national security eavesdropping.

The above is from Scott Shane's "Criminal Inquiry Opens Into Leak In Eavesdropping" which runs on the front page of the New York Times this morning. It shares space with an article that has no place on the front page (see next entry). The paper's still in vacation mode. Shane's article (which will note the end credits also attribute to David E. Sanger) may indicate some actual reporting may arrive before Tuesday but don't hold your breath. It is our spotlight entry this morning, selected as such by Billie, Eddie and Carl.

The administration attempts to deflect valid criticism by making the issue not their own actions but the leak. (The slow leak, the Times sat on the story for over a year.) Anthony Romero of the ACLU is quoted in the article noting that. His pull quote appears to come from this press release ("ACLU Slams DOJ Investigation of NSA Whistleblower, Says Government Must Independently Investigate Violation of Wiretap Laws"):

NEW YORK - The American Civil Liberties Union today sharply criticized a Justice Department investigation into the disclosure of an illegal National Security Agency domestic eavesdropping operation approved by President George W. Bush.
In a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as well as two full-page advertisements in the New York Times, the ACLU has called for the appointment of a special counsel to determine whether President Bush violated federal wiretapping laws by authorizing illegal surveillance of domestic targets.
The following statement can be attributed to ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero:
"President Bush broke the law and lied to the American people when he unilaterally authorized secret wiretaps of U.S. citizens. But rather than focus on this constitutional crisis, Attorney General Gonzales is cracking down on critics of his friend and boss. Our nation is strengthened, not weakened, by those whistleblowers who are courageous enough to speak out on violations of the law."
"To avoid further charges of cronyism, Attorney General Gonzales should call off the investigation. Better yet, Mr. Gonzales ought to fulfill his own oath of office and appoint a special counsel to determine whether federal laws were violated."
The ACLU's December 29 advertisement is online at:
The ACLU's December 22 advertisement is online at:
The ACLU's December 21 letter to Attorney General Gonzales is online at:
The ACLU's December 20 Freedom of Information Act request seeking information about the NSA's program of warrantless spying on Americans is online at:

I'm working on the other entry as I finish this one up. My apologies because I'm moving slowly this morning. And on the phone with Jim and Dona trying to figure out when is the best time to start work on The Third Estate Sunday Review's latest edition because everyone has plans this evening -- including, for me, hosting a huge party. There's been some talk of posting later on Sunday, say in the afternoon (for some, for others it would still be morning). Nothing's determined yet.

In terms of this site, we have the "Other Items" entry that I'm finishing up. Also today, we should have a report by Ruth (she's working on it now). We'll have Kat's musical commentary and our year-in-review. Maria's doing the Democracy Now! headlines this week so look for that as well. However, if we go into emergency mode on The Third Estate Sunday Review, which is an option we're discussing on the phone right now, those entries may be late in going up and may, in fact post Sunday. Everything's up in the air at this point. Hopefully, there will be something decided by the time "Other Items" posts.

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Dave Zirin's What's My Name Fool: Sports and Resistance in the United States

The image is from the cover of Dave Zirin's What's My Name Fool: Sports and Resistance in the United States. It's up for Mike who wants to do an entry at his site Mikey Likes It! on this book. (It may be a joint entry from Mike and Wally actually.) I enjoyed this book and recommend it but other than that, I'll leave it for Mike (and possibly Wally) to comment on. I will note, however, that I think everyone (in the community) first heard of the book on Democracy Now! when Zirin was interviewed by Amy Goodman.

In August, the book was the focus of a discussion at The Third Estate Sunday Review ("1 Book, Ten Minutes").

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Democracy Now: "2005 in Review"; Danny Schechter, Katrina vanden Heuvel, John Dean

2005 draws to a close and what moments will you remember? Which with shame, which with pride, which with horror, which with amusement?

And will the moments that matter to you get ticked off on the network news? That's a question we'll ask because Keesha wrote a great e-mail about today's Democracy Now! which features part one of a retrospective on the 2005 (part two airs Monday). Keesha thinks this is "must see TV." (For those who listen -- I do -- consider it "must hear radio" and for those who read the transcripts online, consider it "must read.")

Keesha: It really has been a roller coaster year. I saw moments that I had forgotten and moments that I remembered. I'm really looking forward to the second part of this.

Which, again, airs Monday. Remember that in addition to the transcripts being online, you can also listen or watch online as well at Democracy Now!

Here's what you've got on part one today:

2005 in Review: Power, Politics and Resistance

Today, part one of our special look back at 2005, including George W. Bush's
inaugeration and protests against election fraud, the occupation of Iraq,
the conviction of attorney Lynne Stewart, the appointment of John Bolton to
the UN, the revelation of Deep Throat, the conviction of Edgar Ray Killen
for killing the three civil rights workers in 1964, and much more.

Featuring the voices of: Colin Powell, Allan Nairn, Stephanie Tubbs Jones,
Jessie Jackson Jr., George Bush, Ossie Davis, Maya Angelou, Harry Belafonte,
Dahr Jamail, Robert Fisk, Ghazwaan Al-Mukhtar, George Galloway,
Barbara Boxer, Condoleezza Rice, Robert Byrd, Peter Kornbluh, John
Negroponte, Alberto Gonzales, Orrin Hatch, Ted Kennedy, Lynne Stewart, Bill
Quigley, Tom DeLay, Ken Goodman, George Voinovich, John Bolton, Giuliana
Sgrena, John Stauber, Tim Rieser, Ricardo Alarcon, Jose Pertierra, Scott
McClellan, Bill Moyers, Timothy Karr, Jim Shultz, Carlos Mesa, Mike Gravel,
Jennifer Dohrn, Donald Rumsfeld, Mike Honda, Amy Hagopian, Simbi Veke
Mubako, Wellington Chibebe, Flash Sharrar, Michael Scherer, Magdalano
Rose-Avila, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Cindy Sheehan, John Conyers, Claire
Short, Chris Chafe, Linda Chavez-Thompson, Bernie Sanders, Carolyn Goodman,
Steven Schwerner, Ben Chaney, and Keith Beauchamp.

As Marcia says of Democracy Now!, "always worth watching." You also have the daily headlines but Keesha asked if we could really emphasize "2005 in Review: Power, Politics and Resistance" so we'll start by noting it (and in large font).

Headlines for December 30, 2005
- Secret Prisons, Renditions Enacted Under Broad CIA Program
- Transit Union Has Won Most Demands: Analysts
- Gitmo Hunger Strike Jumps To 84 Detainees
- House Bill Would Outlaw Aiding Undocumented Immigrants
- 9th Ward Residents Win Temporary Halt to Demolitions
- Doctor: Jailed Haitian Priest Has Cancer
- Ex-British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Leaks Torture Documents
- US Company Finances, Equips Indonesian Military in Papua

We'll grab from the headlines later tonight. (Remember that Elaine and Mike select two headlines a day from Democracy Now! and comment on them.)

Martha e-mails to note that Danny Schechter has a year in review up at News Dissector. We'll note this from Danny's latest:

Its been a hard year for us at Globalvision, and me personally. I have spent most of it writing and hopskotching the world preaching the gospel of media change. I promoted my film WMD and started a new one on the debt trap we are all in. Most days I wrote this blog and found time somehow to have two books published to elablorate my ideas and express my outrage. See
I sure need help in getting the word out about them and the work we do here in this space and on this site every day. Thanks again to all I work with: Rory, David, Olivia, Jen, Frank, and our regular readers and contributors....
It is in the spirit of appreciation and hope that I write this last dissection of the year. I took the time to go back a year to a time 12 months back , dominated by news of the Tsunami whose living victims are still victimized to find out what was on our minds then. I began a late December 2004 blog tby citing the AP's top stories a year ago.

What were the top stories? Use the link.

Brad notes that Katrina vanden Heuvel's also taking a look back with "A Year of Sweet Victories" (Editor's Cut, The Nation):

In the dark days after the election of 2004, the mainstream media was touting the making of a permanent rightward shift, and the progressive community was deeply deflated. It was difficult, in those times, to maintain a sense of hope--as corruption, war, lies and injustices large and small loomed all around, and outrage about the Right's assault on our democracy threatened to overwhelm us.
A year later, the dark and menacing clouds that hovered over The Nation's November 2, 2004 cover ("Four More Years") seem to be slowly lifting. Millions of us are organizing, agitating, mobilizing--and there are many hard-fought victories to celebrate.The attempt to destroy Social Security has been successfully blocked, the movement for withdrawal has captured the majority of the public's support, the mainstream media is slowly rousing from its slumbers, the White House's surveillance state is being revealed, there is talk of impeachment in the air, Vice President for Torture Cheney suffered a stinging rebuke when John McCain's torture ban passed, the GOP is mired in corruption and cronyism ( "Jack Abramoff seems to have the whole party on his payroll," Katha Pollitt writes in her end of year review for The Nation), and scores of local, statewide, and national victories have been won. Here are some of my favorite "sweet victories" of '05--to savor as we head into 2006.

Rebecca's also taking a look back and Sherry e-mails to note that. Sherry also notes that Rebecca's look back includes Jake Gylllenhaal and says "everyone needs to check out the photo!" (Sherry suggested Rebecca include it in a year in review.)

Eric e-mails to praise the latest gina & krista round-robin. I'll echo that and remind everyone that Gina lost the whole thing (and her laptop when the laptop fried) so she had to reconstruct it last night. Gina and Krista always do an incredible job. If you haven't read the round-robin yet today, go to your inboxes already.

This is a dictated post and I'll take a moment to think friends (named and unnamed) who have helped in so many ways with this site. I'll also thank members, you make it what it is. And thank you to The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz; Seth of Seth in the City and Wally of The Daily Jot who do their part in keeping the community alive. And a special thank you to Ava and Jess who tackle the e-mails Monday through Friday (the e-mails here) as well as to Martha and Shirley who pitch in when things get backed up even more than usual.

We'll close by noting Holbert's highlight, John Dean's "George W. Bush as the New Richard Nixon . . ." (Find Law via Common Dreams):

On Friday, December 16, the New York Times published a major scoop by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau: They reported that Bush authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on Americans without warrants, ignoring the procedures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
It was a long story loaded with astonishing information of lawbreaking at the White House. It reported that sometime in 2002, Bush issued an executive order authorizing NSA to track and intercept international telephone and/or email exchanges coming into, or out of, the U.S. - when one party was believed to have direct or indirect ties with al Qaeda.
Initially, Bush and the White House stonewalled, neither confirming nor denying the president had ignored the law. Bush refused to discuss it in his interview with Jim Lehrer.
Then, on Saturday, December 17, in his radio broadcast, Bush admitted that the New York Times was correct - and thus conceded he had committed an impeachable offense.
There can be no serious question that warrantless wiretapping, in violation of the law, is impeachable. After all, Nixon was charged in Article II of his bill of impeachment with illegal wiretapping for what he, too, claimed were national security reasons.
These parallel violations underscore the continuing, disturbing parallels between this Administration and the Nixon Administration - parallels I also discussed in a prior column.
Indeed, here, Bush may have outdone Nixon: Nixon's illegal surveillance was limited; Bush's, it is developing, may be extraordinarily broad in scope. First reports indicated that NSA was only monitoring foreign calls, originating either in the USA or abroad, and that no more than 500 calls were being covered at any given time. But later reports have suggested that NSA is "data mining" literally millions of calls - and has been given access by the telecommunications companies to "switching" stations through which foreign communications traffic flows.
In sum, this is big-time, Big Brother electronic surveillance.

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Note from Jess. There have been a few e-mails about the link in the Danny Schechter excerpt. For those interested in checking out the books available at the store, try the link now and see if it doesn't work. Also we'll be discussing at least one book by Schechter in January at The Third Estate Sunday Review.

Other Items

Trevor notes an Associated Press article (yes, the New York Times still appears to be in vacation mode) entitled "Indonesia Admits 'Support' by U.S. Gold Company to the Military:"

Indonesia's military acknowledged for the first time on Thursday that an American gold company had been providing direct "support" to army units accused of human rights abuses in the remote province of Papua.
A joint services spokesman, Maj. Gen. Kohirin Suganda, said the armed forces "as an institution" had never received payments from the company, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, based in New Orleans. "But we have heard that Freeport provides support such as vehicles, fuel and meals directly to the units in the field," General Suganda said. "That's the company's policy. It was not done because we requested it."

[. . .]
The revelations are potentially embarrassing for the Bush administration, which recently lifted a ban on ties with the Indonesian military imposed in 1999 by President Bill Clinton after a rampage by Indonesian troops in East Timor that killed at least 1,500 people.

How so? How are the revelations potentially embarrassing? First of all the Bully Boy and his administration have never demonstrated the ability to accept blame, let alone to feel shame. But is this a problem for the administration? Serious question because the article doesn't mention 1996 which does involve a Bush, Poppy. That's when Poppy wrote to the Indonesian dictator attempting to secure more favorable treatment for the Barrick Corporation. Suharto did give Barrick concessions but then Freeport-McMoRan's Jim Bob Moffett outsmarted both Poppy and Barrick (and himself, according to Greg Palast, see page 91 of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy).

The "revelations" of the payroll are hardly "revelations." The administration surely took note that there was no great outcry from the mainstream media (including the Times) over the re-establishing of ties with Indonesia. So possibly, knowing that, this is just the administration evening the score with an old competitor? Or are we supposed to assume that the Bush family doesn't have a petty bone in their body? (In which case, Big Bab's carping about soda cans being left open by the grandchildren must have flown over everyone's head. Still a cheapskate, after all these years. You picture her running after Noelle, Jenna, et al screeching, "Finish that Coke! Finish that Coke!" A message some may have taken to heart?)

Mia notes T.J. Rodgers' "British, US Spying Draws Us Closer to Orwell's Big Brother" (San Jose Mercury News via Common Dreams):

In the United States, President Bush is acting under apparently self-granted powers to "authorize'' the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on Americans -- of course, only on Americans threatening terrorist acts.
In an act of high integrity, one of the judges of the secret court that grants Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act search warrants resigned, citing the fact that Bush was now bypassing even that minimal civil rights guarantee by directly authorizing NSA spying on U.S. citizens. One can only imagine that this troublesome judge will be replaced with one more friendly to the administration.
With only the need to combine two real-world technologies for spying and tracking, the vision of 1984 -- once just a dark philosophical concept -- becomes an engineering project.
The president and those to whom he delegates his authority can now authorize government spooks to listen to us in our homes and on our cell phones. When we are not home, they can track us in our automobiles. The system could be airtight and could be used to control our actions.
It's simple enough for most Silicon Valley companies to create a chip to detect a valid GPS signal and disable an automobile's ignition system to prevent citizens from the "unauthorized use'' of their own vehicles.
The final move into the totality of 1984 requires only a bit of philosophical drift, as exemplified by J. Edgar Hoover's directive to spy on the Rev. Martin Luther King because he was a subversive. If Bush's latest acts are left unchallenged, the government will become bolder at spying on whomever it wants and secretly jailing those it deems a threat to national security -- all with no troublesome warrants or messy public trials.

From DC Indymedia, we'll note something Bonnie found, "Alito Helped Quash Black Panther Lawsuit Against the Gov't:"

The National Archives has released notes and documents from Judge Alito, nominee for the Supreme Court, advising the government not to send a Black Panther lawsuit to the Supreme Court. According to Alito, the only exception would be to send a message "to prevent the harassment of present and former public officials through meritless litigation." Alito then went on to help write the legal brief for the Supreme Court to dismiss the lawsuit. The Panthers sued Bush Senior, the FBI and the CIA, for conspiring to destroy the Black Panthers.
Alito Documents and Notes Related to Black Panthers Lawsuit
Today, environmental groups, including Sierra Club, Greenpeace, declared their opposition to the nomination of Alito to the Supreme Court.

Ned notes that when choosing between Hugo Chavez and higher fares, the Chicago Transit Authority goes with higher fares. From Jessica Pupovac's "CTA Turns Down Discounted Venezuelan Oil, Raises Fares Instead" (The New Standard via Chicago Indymedia):

Chicago, Dec 28 (TNS) - The Chicago Transit Authority is refusing an opportunity to alleviate commuting costs for hundreds of thousands in the Windy City's low-income neighborhoods. Instead of accepting deeply discounted fuel from the Venezuela-owned Citgo Petroleum Corporation, the city is instead raising fares to solve budget shortfalls.
In an October meeting with representatives from the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), the city's Department of Energy and other city officials, Citgo unveiled a plan to provide the Chicago with low-cost diesel fuel. The company's stipulation, at the bidding of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, was that the CTA, in turn, pass those savings on to poor residents in the form free or discounted fare cards.But two months later, despite claims of a looming budget crisis, the CTA president "has no intent or plan to accept the offer," according to CTA spokesperson Ibis Antongiorgi. She gave no explanation.
According to Venezuela's consul general in Chicago, Martin Sanchez, the CTA has yet to inform his office of its decision to decline the discount offer.
In place of the proposed discount, which the CTA apparently does not want Chicagoans to even know about, budget shortfalls will be addressed by fair hikes. Chicagoans who are unaware of the Venezuela offer will be hit with an increase of 25 cents per ride next month, and discounted route-to-route transfers will be eliminated for passengers paying cash.

What's the topic for Democracy Now! today? Reviewing the year 2005 so listen, watch or read.
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NYT: Military says it and Dexy jots it down

American commanders are planning to increase significantly the number of soldiers advising Iraqi police commando units, in part to curtail abuse that the units are suspected of inflicting on Sunni Arabs, a senior commander in Iraq said Thursday.

To curtail abuse? The abuse they knew of as early as June of this year (according to The Christian Science Monitor) and didn't do a thing about? When the topic's Iraq and there's no perspective and no reality, you know we've entered the fantasy land of Dexter Filkins. The excerpt above is from his "G.I.'s to Increase U.S. Supervision of Iraqi Police" in this morning's New York Times.

According to Dexy, the US government currently has about 40 advisers in Iraq but will increase that by "several hundred." Only someone reporting press releases live from the Green Zone could coo so sweetly at the prospect of such a large increase in advisers (others might start thinking of the early days of Vietnam). But give him the spin and the "award winning" Dexter can tease out a "news" item until it has a bad case of blue facts.

Poor Filkins, he must pray so hard that the occupation goes well. If it goes poorly those Falluja press releases he penned might get the serious scrutiny they've longed deserved. What will he do then? Plead "I am just an embed and I only want to spin" to the tune of Phil Ochs' "I'm Going To Say It Now?" (More likely, he'll fire off his little cap pistol in the air while singing, "Don't Cry For Me, Falluja.")

He's not interested in the air raids and he's not interested in what the increase in advisers means (especially in light of statements by Rumsfeld). So let's hear a voice from Iraq, something Dexy can't be bothered with because his hand gets so tired after taking all that dictation from the American military. From Riverbend's "No Voice..." (Baghdad Burning):

As it is, people fear the Americans will be here for the next twenty years-- unless they are bombed and attacked out of the country. Although many Iraqis support armed resistance in theory, I think that the average Iraqi simply wants to see them go back home in one piece- we feel sorry for them and especially sorry for their families at times. There are moments when you forget the personal affronts-- the raids, the checkpoints, the fear of bombing, the detentions, etc. and you can see through it all to the actual person behind the weapons and body armor... On the other hand, you never forget that it's a foreign occupation and will meet with resistance like all foreign occupations.

Filkins can't hear Riverbend from the safety of the Green Zone. Norman Solomon has a tip for the Times, "Journalists Should Expose Secrets, Not Keep Them" (CounterPunch -- noted by Charlie in his e-mail this morning):

Consider how the Washington Post intelligence reporter Dana Priest, for instance, responded to a request for "your opinion on the NY Times holding the domestic spying story for a year," during a Dec. 22 online chat. "Well, first: I don't have a clue why they did so," Priest replied. "But I would give them the benefit of the doubt that it was for a good reason and, as their story said, they do more reporting within that year to satisfy themselves about certain things. Having read the story and the follow-ups, it's unclear why this would damage a valuable capability. Again, if the government doesn't think the bad guys believe their phones are tapped, they underestimate the enemy!"
Also opting to "give them the benefit of the doubt," some usually insightful media critics have gone out of their way to voice support for the Times news management.
Deferring to the judgment of the executive editor of the New York Times may be akin to deferring to the judgment of the chief executive of the United States government. And as it happens, in this case, the avowed foreign policy goals of each do not appear to be in fundamental conflict -- on the meaning of the Iraq war or the wisdom of enshrining a warfare state. Pretenses aside, the operative judgments from the New York Times executive editor go way beyond the purely journalistic.
"So far, the passion to investigate the integrity of American intelligence-gathering belongs mostly to the doves, whose motives are subject to suspicion and who, in any case, do not set the agenda," Bill Keller wrote in an essay that appeared in the Times on June 14, 2003, shortly before he became executive editor. And Keller concluded: "The truth is that the information-gathering machine designed to guide our leaders in matters of war and peace shows signs of being corrupted. To my mind, this is a worrisome problem, but not because it invalidates the war we won. It is a problem because it weakens us for the wars we still face."
(By the way, Keller's phrase "the war we won" referred to the Iraq war.)
The story of the NSA's illicit domestic spying is not over. More holes are appearing in the Bush administration's damage-control claims. Media critics who affirm how important the story is -- but make excuses for the long delay in breaking it -- are part of a rationalizing process that has no end.
"The domestic spying controversy is a story of immense importance," Sydney Schanberg writes in the current Village Voice. The long delay before the Times published this "story of immense importance" does not seem to bother him much. "The paper had held the story for a year at the administration's pleading but decided, after second thoughts and more reporting, that its importance required publication." Such wording should look at least a bit weird to journalistic eyes, but Schanberg doesn't muster any criticism, merely commenting: "From where I stand (I'm a Times alumnus), the paper should get credit for digging it out and publishing it."
Professional loyalties can't explain the extent of such uncritical media criticism from journalists. Many, like Schanberg, want to concentrate on the villainy of the Bush administration -- as if it hasn't been aided and abetted by the New York Times' delay. Leading off his Dec. 24 column with a blast at George W. Bush for "asserting the divine right of presidents," the Los Angeles Times media critic Tim Rutten proceeded with an essay that came close to asserting the divine right of executive editors to hold back vital stories for a very long time. Dismissing substantive criticism as the work of "paranoids," Rutten gave only laurels to the sovereign: "The New York Times deserves thanks and admiration for the service it has done the nation."

Remember that today's topic for Democracy Now! is the year 2005 in review. The e-mail address for this site is

Indymedia roundup: government spying/snooping

The domestic spying controversy is a story of immense importance. President Bush, by secret directive a few months after 9-11, allowed the National Security Agency, restricted by law to monitoring only foreign communications, to carry out a domestic spying program as well. This directive, now uncovered, is the latest clear confirmation that the president has been conferring more power on himself--without any checks or balances by Congress or the judicial system.
While previous presidents have at various times claimed the legal right to authorize searches and electronic surveillance without court warrants so as to gather foreign intelligence, those decisions have undergone scrutiny by either courts or congressional hearings.
It's fair to say that Bush had no intention of allowing public scrutiny of his act, since he personally summoned the top executives of The New York Times to a private meeting on December 6 and pressured them not to run the story about the domestic spying. The paper had held the story for a year at the administration's pleading but decided, after second thoughts and more reporting, that its importance required publication. It appeared on the Times' front page on Friday, December 16.
Some Bush supporters have attacked the Times for running the piece. On the other hand, some journalists have attacked the Times for holding it for a year. From where I stand (I'm a Times alumnus), the paper should get credit for digging it out and publishing it. But whatever one's journalistic point of view, the Times' decision-making is not the central story here. The president's secret directive is.
The president and others in his White House said the leak of his decision to bypass existing law was a serious national security matter and hinted at an investigation. They argued that the existing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which requires court warrants and does not allow domestic spying by the National Security Agency, was not designed for an era of terrorism.
Since 9-11, Bush and his inner circle have insisted vehemently that all of the administration's anti-terrorism acts at home and overseas have been done in accordance with U.S. law and the Constitution.

The excerpt above is from an article noted by Jonah, Sydney H. Schanberg's "Checks and No Balance: The story is Bush's spying, not the story's messenger" (The Village Voice). Thursday (see previous entry), focus on indymedia. In this entry, we're focusing on the spying by the Bully Boy. There were two or three items sent in that will be noted in posts later today (Friday) but they didn't fit the focus of this entry or the previous one. Please remember that suggestions for indymedia stories to spotlight can come in for entries other than the indymedia roundup. We noted something Bonnie found earlier this week in a morning entry. She explained why she thought the story was important (and it was) and that knocked out a compare and contrast entry that was in the process of being completed (the New York Times to the Washington Post -- the Post actually had news in their paper that morning as opposed to the Times). We can always drop something in the Times to note a strong indymedia entry. If there's something important in it or the Washington Post, Democracy Now! will usually catch it that day and, if not that day, the next one. If a member's got comments on something in the Times, to share with the community, we'll note it but if it's just me blabbering on, we can always instead give a link and the time to an indymedia entry. (And we won't have suffered any loss for doing so.)

A point Bonnie made in her e-mail was that there were probably hundreds of sites that would focus on the Times that morning (true) and that it would make a difference if we could drop just one thing and include the article she was noting (also true). It's been over a year now, that The Common Ills has been going on, and there's no reason new members should be expected to go through the archives so let me quickly offer an explanation/background for newer members.

The focus on the Times was originally because I subscribed to it and because, fool that I am, I still have hope for the paper. So it is the skeleton/framework for the morning entries. "Other Items" exists specifically to spotlight, in addition to the Times, things from outside the paper. (And I think Rebecca's the one who figured out that dyslexic me was using "Other Items" as an anagram for "Other Times." Meaning things the paper should be covering and, in a better world, would be.) We're not interested in the obvious here. The Times is our main mainstream source. (Members can and have suggested articles from other mainstream sources.)

We do the Democracy Now! entries because a) it's a program that members should be aware of and b) it's independent media. When Ruth started doing her reports, she focused on NPR because we both felt NPR was getting a pass overall. Media Matters has really beefed up their NPR coverage and is doing a great job of oversight on NPR (and FAIR's always done a good job) so Ruth's been able to instead focus on Pacifica and highlight programs she and other members feel you should know about and discussions and topics that you won't hear on NPR.

We're not interested here in giving links to the right wing. They have enough sites to do that on the right and from the center. We are of the left and we don't pretend otherwise. We are not a "blog" here. It could have been that way. When this site started, we did allow comments and I was writing about whatever I wanted to. But we picked up members (who make contributions via topics to cover and things to highlight -- there isn't a fee or membership dues nor or any contributions taken) and they were members and not readers because they were so vocal and "own" this site as much as I could.

Our best entries result from members bringing up topics. So what we are now, and have been since before the end of the first month of this site, is a resource/review. Trying to make sure that just because Matthew Rothschild's not on Meet the Press or Margaret Kimberly's not giving weekly commentary on NPR's Morning Edition, you are aware of them and others. Some voices may not speak to you and that's fine. But hopefully, you'll find some voice that does. Maybe it's a website, maybe it's a program, maybe it's a magazine or a columnist or a reporter . . . But you'll find out about a voice you didn't know about or you'll reconnect with one that you'd forgotten or weren't aware was still out there.

To use the obvious example, we were all not of one mind after 9/11. Not everyone felt the Bully Boy had suddenly become God-like. Nor did everyone think that terror alerts and preying upon people's fears was a healthy answer. But the mainstream media in the United States drowned out alternative voices (as they would continue to do in the leadup to the invasion/occupation of Iraq). People felt disconnected and alone which is how that sort of propaganda works. You think, "Well, it's just me" and shrug. (Especially if the few voices speaking up, Susan Sontag for instance, are being trashed -- in Sontag's case, that included trashing from the "left.")

So that's why we're a resource/review. We hear to note voices that hopefully are being noted by many other left sites and, hopefully, a few that you aren't seeing as often. The mainstream media is a dominant force because it's a point of reference. It shouldn't be the only point of reference. There should be a wide range of discussion and debate. That can't happen if we're only getting the right-leaning mainstream. So if you see something that speaks to you, e-mail (use the private address, especially on weekends) and write a line or two explaining why this is important to you. Don't think I'll quickly read through the copy and paste in your e-mail as I try to pull together an entry and catch what stood out. Even if I'm not rushing and/or don't have a headache, I can easily miss something.

Bonnie did that and I deleted the compare and contrast aspects of that morning's entry (Times to Post) and instead hurried to get Bonnie's highlight in and the entry up. There have been very few times that we've noted something in the Times that wasn't noted in many other places (and we can always count on Democracy Now! to cover it if it's important) (If there is something important to you in the Times, note why because I may miss it. Also note, Juan Forero gives me a headache and most morning's I'm not up to dealing with his "reporting." Last year, Francisco dubbed Forero "the littlest Judy Miller" and it still applies.) This a members' site. That's what determines our focus.

(And sidebar, Beth had to deal with someone in her last ombudsman column for the round-robin who felt I was intentionally ignoring a voice that spoke to them. As Beth noted, I know the person that spoke to them -- and ___ is a great writer -- I'm not sitting around trying to think of how to highlight people I know. If I note someone I know without a member bringing it up, I do the disclosure of "I know . . ." But if you feel someone's being overlooked -- and on any given day, there's a huge number of people that are because, despite the mainstream media's inability to find left voices, they do exist -- note it in an e-mail. The member whom Beth was replying to, noted it and we did highlight that voice this week.)

So that's what we are and that's what we try to do here. And what we're trying to do with this entry is to note the Bully Boy administration that feels it's okay to spy on American citizens.

Which brings us to Cindy's highlight, "ACLU Seeks Information about Government Spying on Anti-War Groups" (San Francisco Bay Indymedia):

The ACLU announced on December 21st that it is seeking records held by CATIC and the CIB (Criminal Intelligence Bureau) on the ACLU California affiliates and chapters, Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, United for Peace and Justice, Food not Bombs, Code Pink, UC Santa Cruz Students Against the War, Fresno State Campus Peace and Civil Liberties Coalition, Peace Fresno, War Resisters League West, College Not Combat, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, as well as a number of police documents. Under the California Public Records Act, the agencies have 10 days to respond.

Coming at the spying from the angle of "what can Congress do?" is the highlight Stan found, "Bush Bash" (Metro Times Detroit):

Add to that list Bush's authorization of apparently illegal wiretaps, which The New York Times exposed earlier this month.
The Conyers report says there's evidence the president and members of his administration violated a number of federal laws, with the charges "clearly" rising to the level of impeachable conduct. But, "because the Bush Administration and Republican-controlled Congress have blocked the ability of members to obtain information directly from the Administration concerning these matters, more investigatory authority is needed before recommendations can be made regarding specific Articles of Impeachment." To address that problem, Conyers is calling on Congress to "establish a select committee with subpoena authority to investigate, and then report back" to the Judiciary Committee.
Conyers is also pressing Congress to censure Bush and Cheney. Censure, essentially, is a formal reprimand that, aside from the embarrassment, carries no punishment.
At this point, unless we missed the news flash reporting that hell's been buried in a blizzard, that’s not going to happen. Like Conyers says, the GOP has a lock on Congress. But can anyone say "midterm elections"?

Turning to the topic of the spying itself, Heath notes David Sirota asking a key question: "Why Not Get Warrants? It's the most important question in the president's domestic spying scandal" (The Memphis Flyer):

Meanwhile, Bush is portrayed as the tough fighter of terrorism, willing to make the tough choices to defend America's national security. In short, his crimes are portrayed as badges of honor.
There's just one problem: This isn't a question of whether America supports domestic surveillance operations against terrorists or not. This is a question of whether America supports those operations without requiring a warrant.
Domestic surveillance operations happen all the time. They are a regular topic of television shows and movies (think Serpico or Stakeout). But they are also governed by the Fourth Amendment, which explicitly protects citizens against "unreasonable search and seizures" and requires the executive branch to obtain a warrant from the judiciary branch in order to do surveillance operations.
So the question reporters should be asking the White House isn't why the president thinks there should be domestic efforts to track and stop terrorists. The vast majority of Americans support such efforts. The question they should be asking is, Why did the president order domestic surveillance operations without obtaining constitutionally required warrants? That is behavior that most Americans who believe in the Constitution likely do not support at all.
This is especially important, because under the Patriot Act's weakened standards, the government can now circumvent the traditional (and more rigorous) judicial system and obtain a warrant directly from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, which is almost completely skewed in favor of the government. As Slate correctly noted, getting a warrant from a FISA court judge requires "no need for evidence or probable cause," and the judge has almost no authority to reject the government's request for a warrant unless the government's requests are extraordinarily outlandish. The government's own data shows that the FISA court has rejected only four government applications for warrants in the past 25 years. It is also why members of Congress of both parties have tried to repeal the Patriot Act sections that allow the administration to use FISA warrants for domestic surveillance.

Finally, In Dallas highlights David Lindorff's "Bush's NSA Spying Jeopardizes US National Security" (This Can't Be Happening):

Now it appears that besides massively violating the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure, this illegal spying may have put the U.S. at risk by undermining the prosecution of possible terror suspects. By illegally snooping on people's email and phone conversations, without first making a showing to a judge of some probable cause for the monitoring, the administration has opened the door for defense attorneys to seek new trials for their clients based upon a claim of improperly obtained evidence. Other cases that have yet to be brought to trial may end up being thrown out on the same grounds.
"The infection of these cases by the NSA spying scandal raises the spying to a new level," says John Bonifaz, a constitutional law expert, founder of the organization, and author of the book Warrior-King: The Case for Impeaching George W. Bush."
"What this means is that George Bush, by violating the rules on domestic surveillance by the NSA, has compromised national security," says Bonifaz. "This scandal effectively prevents the prosecution of people, some of whom may actually be culpable as terrorists."

Now in case I run out of steam (it's now an all nighter) and forget, today (Friday) on Democracy Now! the topic will be the year 2005 in review so be sure to listen, watch or read. The e-mail address for this site is

Indymedia roundup focus on the war

We’ve all heard the saying that those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. The Pentagon, the NSA and the FBI have recently been busted for spying on such pacifists groups as the Quakers, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Catholic Workers, Indianapolis Vegans, Greenpeace and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). Have the authorities learned nothing from their past mistakes? What a colossal waste of taxpayer money! Come on, what do they have to fear from Quakers?
From colonial times to the present, the US government has singled out pacifists as threats ... but why? I've asked my moderate friends why they think this has been so. They have not been able to come up with anything resembling a logical explanation, so I'll offer my own observations.

What two things do all these groups have in common? First off, they are all pacifist oriented. Second, to date, none of these groups have ever been accused of killing people or violating human rights (two claims the aforementioned authorities cannot make). Sure, some of the members of these groups have committed illegal acts. Oftentimes, these are pre-planned actions of non-violent, civil disobedience. Just this past November, forty or so anti-war pacifists crossed the gates into Fort Benning, to protest the infamous School of the Americas. Does that make them terrorists? That certainly does not fit my definition of terrorism. These activists are trying to stop killing in all forms.
Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King Junior and Rosa Parks (all pacifists or “near pacifists”) used the tool of non-violent, civil disobedience. These legendary figures have since been honored with accolades and honors by the same US Government that once imprisoned them. George W. Bush hailed Rosa Parks as a hero when she recently passed away. Did he see the hypocrisy of his praise? The non-violent acts of Thoreau, King and Parks were misunderstood in their own time. The non-violent acts of protest conducted by the groups who are currently on the watch list are misunderstood too.
Wouldn’t the government’s time be better spent monitoring groups who intend to kill people, especially Americans? To my knowledge, the groups the authorities are spying on advocate only advocate a change of policy. The President’s stated goal is to kill terrorists and/or break up their clandestine networks. Why then is it necessary to spend time monitoring American pacifists, instead of spending it watching jihadists?
Pacifists have been misunderstood by American authorities since colonial times. (Until very recently, I too misunderstood pacifism.) Quakers and Anabaptists of all stripes (Mennonites, Amish, Hutterites, and Brethern), because of their demonstrated faith, were exempted from military service, from the American Revolution forward. We know from James Madison’s notes that the Founding Fathers were sensitive to the issue of standing armies and conscientious objection (for religious reasons) during the Constitutional Convention. Since then, with the many wars the US has fought, the scope of conscientious objection has gradually been expanded to include non-believers.

The above, sent in by Molly, is from Joey King's "Why Do They Always Pick on Pacifists?" (Tennessee Indymedia). It was Thursday when I started on this (it's now after midnight). Thursdays we do indymedia roundup. Members who have been waiting, my apologies. Gina's plan was to pull together the various things she and Krista had ready for the round-robin and pull an all nighter because with Christmas shopping, she felt she'd let Krista take too much of the burden for the last two weeks. (Gina works in retails and has had long nights the last two weeks.) She called when I was pulling together this and the other entry from e-mails with a problem, her laptop shutdown and she lost everything she had saved as documents. She and Krista had done a roundtable Tuesday for this round-robin and I'd been the one in charge of taking the notes which I still had in rough form, so that's been recreated.
Member's contributions via e-mail, she still is able to run. But a number of additional pieces are lost. I gave her every bit of scrap odds & ends I had (including a thing I worked on last December but never felt was ready about Richie Pearl in high school and college -- yes, the dark prince, so look for that and think to yourself, "He was so 90210!" Truly. And that's not intended as a compliment.) Krista had shared their editorial with me already in an e-mail so Gina's got a copy of that now as well. But if something was planned and mentioned last round-robin that's not in this one, it will go in next week. She just didn't want to call Krista and wake her since she felt the burden fell mainly on Krista for the last two weeks. She's got an edition pulled together now on her pc and I think everyone will enjoy it. She also got ahold of Kat and Kat volunteered what was going to be her Friday post so there will be that as well. It should be a strong edition but there are at least three things mentioned last round-robin as "upcoming" for this edition that are lost on her now fried laptop, so expect those next Friday and not this one.

So that's the explanation for the delay in the indymedia posts as well as a heads up to the latest gina & krista round-robin. In this entry, we're focusing on the war. We've noted Joey King's article on pacifists and we'll also be noting recuriters, torture and the Christian Peacemakers Teams.

In recruiting news, Portland e-mails to note this from the news briefs at the Eugene Weekly News:

Military recruiters are preparing for their spring recruiting season with a $4 billion budget, and are expected to hit hard on local high school students."High school seniors, get ready," says Phil Weaver of Eugene PeaceWorks. "No plans after graduation? Worried about student aid for college? Needing to learn job skills? Wanting to travel? These are the hooks that will be used to entice you into serving in the military."Weaver says there are non-military options for all these concerns. "Before you enlist, get all the facts," he says.
PeaceWorks and Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC) are looking for veterans for "counter-counseling" through the Committee for Countering Military Recruitment. The committee will help young people who are considering military enlistment by examining enlistment contracts, promised positions and benefits, and the realities of combat and military life.
A training for counter-counselors is coming up Sunday, Jan. 8. For information, call 343-8548 ext. 1 or 485-1755 or visit

Whether or not the recruiters are able to sign up more people to send to Iraq, and the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk not withstanding, things aren't improving in Iraq. Ken notes Brian Conley's "Elections, Investigations, and Iraq’s Consitution Fail to Stop Torture" (Alive in Baghdad):

Despite these articles in the consitution, torture continues in Iraq. It also continues after an election with 69% turnout, which many Iraqis believed would cause these kinds of actions to end, and the Bush administration has predicted will help complete Iraq’s transition to democracy.
Just 4 days before Iraq's historic election and the next step in its transition to democracy, four more Sunnis were abducted by Iraqi police from the Abu Dasher district in Baghdad.
According to a source close to the situation, these men were found dead one day later in the condition seen here in photos from the source.
[Editor's note: Most of these photos are gruesome and quite disturbing, if you choose to view them, please consider yourself forewarned.]
Photos of Victims
Photos of previous victims:
Set 1Set 2
Due to the ongoing problems of torture in Iraq, the United States, despite its expressed desire to establish a democracy in Iraq, is currently in violation of Iraq’s new consitution.

Bonnie noted something that was in the public domain and, due to the topic, we're going to reprint in full. There's still no word on the fate of the Christian Peacemaker Teams and the mainstream media appears to be uninterested. Tom Fox is one of the four who was kidnapper and here's something that he wrote, "Why are We Here?" (DC Indymedia):

The following reflection was written by Tom Fox the day before he was abducted.
November 25th, 2005 -- The Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Iraq team went through a discernment process, seeking to identify aspects of our work here in Iraq that are compelling enough to continue the project and comparing them with the costs (financial, psychological, physical) that are also aspects of the project. It was a healthy exercise, but it led me to a somewhat larger question: Why are we here?
If I understand the message of God, his response to that question is that we are to take part in the creation of the Peaceable Realm of God. Again, if I understand the message of God, how we take part in the creation of this realm is to love God with all our heart, our mind and our strength and to love our neighbors and enemies as we love God and ourselves. In its essential form, different aspects of love bring about the creation of the realm.I have read that the word in the Greek Bible that is translated as "love" in the word "agape". Again, I have read that this word is best expressed as a profound respect for all human beings simply for the fact that they are all God's children. I would state that idea in a somewhat different way, as "never thinking or doing anything that would dehumanize one of my fellow human beings."
As I survey the landscape here in Iraq, dehumanization seems to be the operative means of relating to each other. U.S. forces in their quest to hunt down and kill "terrorists" are as a result of this dehumanizing word, not only killing "terrorist", but also killing innocent Iraqis: men, women and children in the various towns and villages.
It seems as if the first step down the road to violence is taken when I dehumanize a person. That violence might stay within my thoughts or find its way into the outer world and become expressed verbally, psychologically, structurally or physically. As soon as I rob a fellow human being of his or her humanity by sticking a dehumanizing label on them, I begin the process that can have, as an end result, torture, injury and death."Why are we here?" We are here to root out all aspects of dehumanization that exists within us. We are here to stand with those being dehumanized by oppressors and stand firm against that dehumanization. We are here to stop people, including ourselves, from dehumanizing any of God's children, no matter how much they dehumanize their own souls.
Four members of Christian Peacemaker Teams were abducted this past Saturday, November 26 in Baghdad, Iraq. Join Arundhati Roy, Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, Cindy Sheehan, Denis Halliday, Rashid Khalidi, and Many Others in Calling for the Urgent Release of Peace Activists Held in Iraq...
Tom Fox, age 54, is from Clearbrook, Virginia and is a dedicated father of two children. For the past two years, Mr. Fox has worked with CPT in partnership with Iraqi human rights organizations to promote peace. Mr. Fox has been faithful in the observance of Quaker practice for 22 years. While in Iraq, he sought a more complete understanding of Islamic cultural richness. He is committed to telling the truth to U.S. citizens about the horrors of war and its effects on ordinary Iraqi civilians and families as a result of U.S. policies and practices. Mr. Fox is an accomplished musician. He plays the bass clarinet and the recorder and he loves to cook. He has also worked as a professional grocer. Mr. Fox devotes much of his time to working with children. He has served as an adult leader of youth programs and worked at a Quaker camp for youth. He has facilitated young people's participation in opposing war and violence. Mr. Fox is a quiet and peaceful man, respectful of everyone, who believes that "there is that of God in every person" which is why work for peace is so important to him.
Christian Peacemaker Teams has been present in Iraq since October 2002, providing first-hand, independent reports from the region, working with detainees of both United States and Iraqi forces, and training others in non-violent intervention and human rights documentation. Christian Peacemaker Teams is a violence reduction program. Teams of trained peacemakers work in areas of lethal conflict around the world.

The e-mail address for this site is

Thursday, December 29, 2005

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

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

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

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

Headlines for December 29, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reverend Billy Preaches on Shopocolypse Tour of the Country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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