Thursday, January 12, 2006

Democracy Now: Alito hearings, Margaret Kimberley, Eleanor Smeal, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Elizabeth Holtzman, Juan Gonzalez

Abu Ghraib Commander Takes 5th Amendment At Trial
The Washington Post is reporting a high-ranking US army official has invoked his right not to incriminate himself while testifying in the military tribunal of two soldiers accused of using dogs to intimidate detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The decision by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller -- who helped set up interrogations at Abu Ghraib -- comes shortly after Col. Thomas Pappas, the commanding officer at Abu Ghraib, accepted immunity from prosecution this week and was ordered to testify at an upcoming military trial. According to the Post, Col. Pappas, could be asked how abusive tactics emerged, who ordered their use and their possible connection to officials in Washington. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said: "It's a steppingstone going up the chain of command, and that's positive. It might demonstrate that it wasn't just a few rotten apples."

Alito Refuses To Affirm Roe v. Wade Is Settled Law
Confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito continued for a third day Wednesday. Alito's view on abortion remained a key point of debate. Democrats criticized Alito for not doing something that Chief Justice John Roberts did just four months ago during his confirmation hearings -- state that Roe v. Wade was the settled law of the land. Alito's membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, or CAP, also drew criticism. In 1985, in a job application to become an assistant attorney general, Alito noted that he was a member of the group along with the Federal Society. By 1985 the Concerned Alumni of Princeton was already a highly controversial group because it opposed equal educational opportunities for women, minorities and the disabled.

Israel Suspends Talks With Robertson Over Biblical Theme Park
Meanwhile, the Israeli government says it has suspended talks on a tourism project with evangelical leader Pat Robertson. This in response to Robertson's suggestion Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for pulling out of the Gaza Strip. As Democracy Now reported last week, Robertson was heading a consortium in talks with the Israeli government to build a sprawling biblical theme park by the Sea of Galilee. Israel Tourism spokesperson Ido Hartuv said Robertson's comments had offended many Israelis, but added: "Evangelicals are the best friends of Israel and they are very, very welcome here."

The above three items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Liang, Keesha and Jonah. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for January 12, 2006
- Alito Refuses To Affirm Roe v. Wade Is Settled Law
- Pressure Builds On Iran Over Nuclear Activities
- 24 Haitian Migrants Found Dead in Dominican Republic
- Schwarzenegger Budget Targets Welfare Recipients
- South Carolina Teens Convicted of Lynching Black Youth
- Cuban-American Couple Arrested of Spying for Cuba
- Abu Ghraib Commander Takes 5th Amendment At Trial
- Leading Polluters Refuse Gas Targets At Inaugural Meeting

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

Senators Grill Alito on Membership and Involvement in Discriminatory Group
Senators fought over Alito's membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton and whether the panel should subpoena records from the group that opposed the acceptance of blacks or women at Princeton. [includes rush transcript]

Alito Refuses to State Whether Roe v. Wade is Settled Law
Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito refuses to state that Roe v. Wade was the settled law of the land -- a statement made by John Roberts four months ago during his confirmation hearings to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. [includes rush transcript]

Alito Dismisses Foreign Law as Not "Appropriate or Useful"
When questioned by Sen. Tom Coburn (R - OK) about the citation of foreign law, Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito said, "I don't think it's appropriate or useful to look to foreign law in interpreting the provisions of our Constitution." [includes rush transcript - partial]

Feinstein Grills Alito on Rulings in Key Environmental Cases
Judge Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court has also raised concerns among environmentalists. Greenpeace, the National Environmental Trust, Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club have all publicly opposed Alito's confirmation. [includes rush transcript - partial]

It's Thursday and Carl was the first to note the latest from Margaret Kimberley, "Lynn Swann and Black Republicans" (Freedom Rider, The Black Commentator):

Former football star Lynn Swann recently announced his candidacy for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Pennsylvania. Swann has no qualifications to be a Governor. In fairness, that makes him no different from Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose only qualification to govern California was movie stardom. If unqualified white people can run for office and win, it is hard to argue against unqualified black people doing the same.
Athletes have always made attractive political candidates. They have instant name recognition and popularity. Voters have warm and fuzzy feelings for them. Swann was a legendary player with the Pittsburgh Steelers when they won four Super Bowls in the 1970s. He is good looking and articulate. Those are solid political credentials in this country.
In recent years Swann began earning his Republican bona fides. He is Chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. While campaigning for George W. Bush he actually called him "the most qualified and credible candidate" and managed to keep a
straight face.
Swann hasn't said very much about what he plans to do should he be elected. He is in favor of "responsible" tax cuts, sounds like "compassionate" conservatism, and is against abortion. He also says that Democrats take black voters for granted. He clearly knows the GOP mantra by heart.
Swann was a Democrat until he saw the light and joined the GOP. Who knows if he had a change of heart or if he saw the political light. If he is being cynical then he has made a sensible move.

Ah the Democrats .. .

Before we get to today, let's remember yesterday (a powerful day) via Maria's highlight, Eleanor Smeal's "Alito Hearings Day 3: Things Are Heating Up" (The Smeal Report From Inside Washington, Ms. Magazine):

Interestingly, CAP was one of only two memberships Alito included on his 1985 job application for a promotion in the Reagan Administration (the other was the Federalist Society). It seems no coincidence that he included an organization co-founded by Rusher, when Reagan had professed that the National Review was his favorite magazine.
Alito seemingly wasn't careful enough to know that CAP had already been disgraced by 1985. He said that he did not recall reading about the very public resignations of former Senator Bill Bradley in 1973 and current Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in 1974.
The whole situation is very puzzling and very worrisome for people who are concerned about women's rights and civil rights.
Meanwhile, Alito continued to refuse to answer questions about whether the Constitution protects a woman's right to choose. Instead of answers, we are hearing a familiar refrain that Alito is a judge with "No Agenda" who will examine the issue of a woman's right to choose abortion with an "Open Mind."
We heard the exact same words from Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings. Just months after his confirmation to the high court, he joined a dissenting opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that made his position clear: "We believe that Roe was wrongly decided, and that it can and should be overruled consistently with our traditional approach to stare decisis in constitutional cases."
By refusing to tell us his view on the Constitution regarding abortion, Judge Alito is letting stand his 1985 position that he does not believe the Constitution protects a woman's right to an abortion.
Click here for Ms. magazine's complete coverage of the Alito hearings.

Also on yesterday's hearing, Brandon notes Wally's "Alito: 'I'll say anything to be confirmed'" which brings you up to date on community sites:

Rebecca's got a funny thing comparing Lindsey Graham to a character in a Tennessee Williams play. Kat's tired of Diane Feinstein playing the "Little Lady of the Senate." (Me too.) Mike's proud of his senator (Ted Kennedy) but irriated by Feinstein. Elaine wonders if Feinstein's trying to be "Lily Tomlin's Tasteful Lady"? (Mom says it was an overly refined woman, one of the characters Lily Tomlin does but not as famous as Ernestine or Edith Ann.) And Betty weighs in on "The Tough Talking Thomas Friedman."

So what has today been like? Not as lively as yesterday. "Enough of that. Let me move on." Who said that? Which Democrat? Does it matter? Doesn't that seem like those two sentences summed up much of what's gone on so far today? (Diane Feinstein said it today to Alito, for those who missed it.)

Who's worthy of applause in these hearings? Pacifica. They provided America with "gavel to gavel" coverage. (Coverage is still going on so if you're listening, keep listening. If you're not, consider listening via Pacifica.) With prospects very likely that Alito will be the second Supreme Court Justice appointed in less than a year by the Bully Boy, NPR decided that what America really needed was . . . so-called Fresh Air.

Does NPR do live coverage anymore? National Corporate Radio, as two CDs BuzzFlash offered not all that long ago proclaimed. (Dallas noted the CDs in March.)

Well they certainly demonstrated that they weren't interested in informing the public this week. Where does all the Krock money go anyway? Into training on air personalities to speak in the same bland voice? In editing costs so that all those pre-recorded bits (a huge amount) play as though no host or guest ever says "uh" or worse. (Diane Rehm's show is broadcast live. She also has a non-bland voice. But she got in on the ground floor and NPR hasn't seen the need to replicate her all over their programming schedule.)

So note and be thankful for Pacifica.

The hearings? No real follow ups for Alito. He's still allowed to pick and choose what he'll respond to. "I don't think that's settled" was popular this morning. Has anyone pointed out that he tossed that rule aside when he weighed in on public displays of worship the day before?

Schumer was the strongest from where I sat. Dick Durbin did well (I thought). I'm not sure on Kohl. I had trouble hearing him but I think he was laying groundwork. (Supposedly some are laying groundwork for the witnesses that will testify later. Whether that's true or not, who knows.)

It's more sedate. The life seems to have gone out of the hearings. Even Jeff Sessions seemed to have trouble kissing Alito's ass today. Everyone looks tired and it seems like a sense of resignation just hangs over everything. Which may be why the fact that Alito followed the law by providing employment to men and women is somehow seen as some amazing, trailblazing thing he did. I also think Alito completely screwed up the war powers issue.

Tonight, we'll have the indymedia spotlights. Ruth may have a report. You should have read one this morning; however, I overslept. I slept through the ringing cell phone, the wake up call, all but the banging on the door. (At which time I quickly pulled together this morning's entries which I'm sure show it.) I was supposed to call Ruth. Due to the mail problems, she's dictated her entries this week to me over the phone and then I farm the text out to Dallas who gathers the necessary links. So my apologies to Ruth and everyone for her not having an entry up this morning. Depending upon how long the roundtable lasts tonight, there will be an entry from Ruth up here tonight. (If it's not tonight, Ruth thinks she'll probably wait and do her regular Saturday entry.)

The hearings appear done. (Though there's supposedly some amazing witnesses coming up. I'm sure they are worth listening to, but I'm not sure any witnesses will have any impact.) But there are other issues involving the nation. Such as the issue of impeachment.

Tracey (Ruth's granddaughter) notes Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Elizabeth Holtzman: Nixon to Bush & the Case for Impeachment" (Editor's Cut, The Nation):

A few days before the New Year, soon after the New York Times reported that Bush had authorized the warrantless wiretapping of thousands of Americans, I called Elizabeth Holtzman. I remembered that Nixon was charged in Article II of his bill of impeachment with illegal wiretapping for what he, too, claimed were national security reasons. And memories of Holtzman as a young leader on the House Judiciary Committee, during Watergate, made me sure she'd be a rigorous, thoughtful voice on this gravest of issues.
I reached Holtzman at her New York city law office. Anyone who knows Holtzman respects her level-headed, no-nonsense manner. That afternoon, however, her voice rose as she expressed outrage about the recent revelations of Bush's wiretapping, and she was quick to drew parallels to Watergate-era abuses. But Holtzman hesitated before agreeing to take on this assignment, asking for a few days to pull together her material and arguments. A few days later, she sent me an e-mail saying I'd have it a few days after the new year.
As promised, Holtzman got us
the piece. Over the course of a week, working with senior editor Betsy Reed, Holtzman revised the article--adding more facts, reviewing arguments with legal colleagues, and updating (for example, the Pentagon study disclosing that proper bulletproof vests would have saved hundreds of lives came out just days before press date).
So, today, some thirty years after Watergate, a leader in the impeachment of Richard Nixon--former member of the House Judiciary Committee Elizabeth Holtzman--returns to the national stage, with
her cover story in this week's Nation, to make the case for impeachment again: this time against President George W. Bush.
The article is especially powerful because of its sober tone, its rigorous argumentation and fastidious documentation. It is also moving because it is informed by Holtzman's personal experience and political history.

Which acts as a strong lead in to Rod's hightlight, Elizabeth Holtzman's "The Impeachment of George W. Bush" (The Nation):

Finally, it has started. People have begun to speak of impeaching President George W. Bush--not in hushed whispers but openly, in newspapers, on the Internet, in ordinary conversations and even in Congress. As a former member of Congress who sat on the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon, I believe they are right to do so.
I can still remember the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach during those proceedings, when it became clear that the President had so systematically abused the powers of the presidency and so threatened the rule of law that he had to be removed from office. As a Democrat who opposed many of President Nixon's policies, I still found voting for his impeachment to be one of the most sobering and unpleasant tasks I ever had to undertake. None of the members of the committee took pleasure in voting for impeachment; after all, Democrat or Republican, Nixon was still our President.
At the time, I hoped that our committee's work would send a strong signal to future Presidents that they had to obey the rule of law. I was wrong.
Like many others, I have been deeply troubled by Bush's breathtaking scorn for our international treaty obligations under the United Nations Charter and the Geneva Conventions. I have also been disturbed by the torture scandals and the violations of US criminal laws at the highest levels of our government they may entail, something I have written about in these pages [see Holtzman, "
Torture and Accountability," July 18/25, 2005]. These concerns have been compounded by growing evidence that the President deliberately misled the country into the war in Iraq. But it wasn't until the most recent revelations that President Bush directed the wiretapping of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)--and argued that, as Commander in Chief, he had the right in the interests of national security to override our country's laws--that I felt the same sinking feeling in my stomach as I did during Watergate.
As a matter of constitutional law, these and other misdeeds constitute grounds for the impeachment of President Bush. A President, any President, who maintains that he is above the law--and repeatedly violates the law--thereby commits high crimes and misdemeanors, the constitutional standard for impeachment and removal from office. A high crime or misdemeanor is an archaic term that means a serious abuse of power, whether or not it is also a crime, that endangers our constitutional system of government.

And on the issue of the war, Bonnie notes Dennis Kucinich's "Democrats: It's the War" (In These Times):

National Democratic leaders have already tried, and tried again, to ignore the war, and it didn't work politically. During the 2002 election cycle, when Democrats felt they had historical precedent on their side--the president's party always loses seats in the mid-term election--the Democratic leadership in Congress cut a deal with the president to bring the war resolution to a vote, and appeared with him in a Rose Garden ceremony. "Let no light show" between Democrats and President Bush on foreign policy was the leadership's strategy, and it yielded a historic result: For the first time since Franklin Roosevelt, a president increased his majorities in both houses of Congress during a recession.
Then, in 2004, with the president vulnerable on the war, the Democratic Party again sacrificed the opportunity to distinguish itself from Bush. Members avoided the issue of withdrawal from Iraq in the Party platform, omitted it from campaign speeches and deleted it from the national convention.
Why is it an unconscionable political blunder to sweep the war and occupation of Iraq under the rug? Because the war is one of the most potent political scandals of all time, and it has energized grassroots activity all over the country.
President Bush led the country into war based on false information, falsified threats and a fictitious estimate of the consequences. His war and the continuing occupation transformed Iraq into a training ground for jihadists who want to kill Americans, and a cause célèbre for stoking resentment in the Muslim world.
Bush's war and occupation squandered the abundant good will felt by the world for America after our 9/11 losses. He enriched his cronies at Halliburton and other private interests through the occupation. And he diverted our attention and abilities away from apprehending the masterminds of the 9/11 attack. Instead, we are mired in an occupation which has already cost over 2,000 American lives and the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis.

Noting the editorial at The Third Estate Sunday Review (which spotlights the strong work of Juan Gonzalez), Zach notes Juan Gonzalez's "Pension 'Crisis' is A Myth" (New York Daily News via Common Dreams):

Pension plans have suddenly become a major battleground for America's labor movement.
Government leaders and the CEOs of big companies keep claiming pension costs are skyrocketing. Many are rushing to cut back or eliminate plans and replace them with 401(k) plans.
New York's first transit strike in 25 years was touched off by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's attempt to create a more costly pension tier for new workers. The three-day strike by the Transport Workers Union successfully beat back the MTA's pension demand.
But the fights have just started. Mayor Bloomberg has made pension reform a key issue in City Hall's new round of negotiations with municipal unions.
There are a few big holes in this "pension crisis," however.
To begin with, it doesn't exist.
Second, the bulk of city pension costs come from a small portion of the city's workforce that no one wants to tackle - cops and firefighters.
The average annual pension cost for a firefighter last year, for example, was more than $43,000, while for a civilian city worker it was $4,600 - nearly 10 times less.
Don't take my word for it. Just look at the financial reports of the city's own actuary, Robert North.
Sure, City Hall and the MTA are right to claim that during the past two years employer contributions to pension plans jumped dramatically.
But they never tell you that employer contributions to all city pension funds plummeted steadily for more than 20 years, until they reached nearly zero.

Francisco wrote a lengthy note of praise for all the members contributing to the round-robins, for Krista and Gina for doing these special editions and for members with sites who've had new content this week. I'll second that and add a thank you to members who have provided outstanding highlights this week as well. And ___ who I'm dictating this entry to can swipe a listing of members with sites from The Third Estate Sunday Review and paste it below:

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;
and Wally of The Daily Jot.

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