Thursday, January 19, 2006

Democracy Now: Craig Murray; Amitabh Pal, Margaret Kimberley, Salim Muwakkil and Wally

Rhonda wondered if we could start with a news item not from Democracy Now! today?
Here's her pick, from the Feminist Wire:

No on Alito Momentum Building

The momentum to stop the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court is growing. Several Democratic Senators have already announced their intention to oppose Alito. These Senators include Patrick Leahy (VT), Ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee; Judiciary Committee member Ted Kennedy (MA); Barbara Mikulski (MD); and Max Baucus (MT). Senators Leahy and Baucus had voted to confirm John Roberts in September. The option for a filibuster to block Alito is still on the table.

GET THE INSIDE SCOOP with The Smeal Report and the New Leif blogs at

TAKE ACTION Call your Senators and urge them to oppose Alito

DONATE Make an emergency contribution to the Feminist Majority’s Save Roe Campaign. We must be a strong voice in this crucial fight to save Roe and the Supreme Court for women’s rights.
Media Resources: Feminist Majority

Wait, Rhonda, didn't the New York Times just tell us it was a done deal this morning?

Why, yes, they did. They aren't always right. (To put it mildly.) Demand action from your senators. A "no" vote doesn't cut it, this needs to be filibustered. Demand a filibuster. Call, e-mail, fax, visit the local offices (with an appointment to make sure you aren't busted for trying to convey your opinions on a vote).

Now for three headlines from today's Democracy Now! Headlines which were selected by Tori, Micah and Shawn:

Labor Dept.: Real Wages Saw 0.5% Decline in 2005
In other news, new data released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the hourly and weekly pay of most US workers fell behind inflation in 2005. Real hourly wages declined .5 percent last year, with real weekly wages fell .4 percent. Economic Policy Institute Senior Economist Jared Bernstein commented: "The growing economy is showing up everywhere except where it's needed most: in the paychecks of working families."

HRW Says Bush Foreign Policy Undermining Human Rights
Here in the United States, Human Rights Watch released its annual report Wednesday. The report includes a scathing critique of the Bush administration, accusing it of undermining human rights around the world by the way its waging the so-called war on terror. The group also called on Congress to set up an independent panel to investigate U.S. human rights abuses.
  • Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth : : "I'm sorry to report that the global defense of human rights has been profoundly compromised by the Bush administration's policy level decisions to flout some of the most basic human rights norms out of a misguided sense that is the best way to fight against terrorism. It's long been understood that the Bush administration's torture and inhumane treatment could not be blamed on a handful of low level soldiers on the night shift. At minimum, we understand until now, that policy decisions taken at the top had created an atmosphere of tolerance for abuse. And among those policy decisions that one could cite would be, for example, is the Bush Administration's ripping of the Geneva Convention with respect to Guantanamo, its extraordinarily narrow definition of torture to the point that most forms of abuse are not considered torture."
Former EPA Heads Criticize Bush on Global Warming
Six former heads of the Environmental Protect Agency -- five of them Republicans --accused the Bush administration Wednesday of ignoring efforts to curb global warming and other environmental problems. The ex-EPA chiefs were attending a gathering to commemorate the agency's 35th year anniversary. The Bush administration has rejected a slew of national and global environmental measures, including the Kyoto protocol, which sets mandatory controls on carbon dioxide. Lee Thomas, who served under the Ronald Reagan administration, said: "if the United States doesn't deal with those kinds of issues in a leadership role, they're not going to get dealt with. So I'm very concerned about this country and this agency."

Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for January 19, 2006

- Leading Iraqi, US Muslims Call For Jill Carroll's Release
- Father: Carroll "A Friend and Sister To Many Iraqis"
- Freed Iraqi Journalists Describe Ordeal US Custody
- Mass Graves Uncovered North of Baghdad
- Police Use Tear Gas, Rubber Bullets At Ecuadorian Protest
- IAEA Announces Meeting On Iran
- HRW Says Bush Foreign Policy Undermining Human Rights
- Former EPA Heads Criticize Bush on Global Warming
- 2 More Suspects Charged in Eco-Arson Cases

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

EXCLUSIVE: Ex-British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray on Why He Defied UK Foreign Office by Posting Classified Memos Blasting U.S., British Support of Torture by Uzbek Regime

We spend the hour with the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray. The British government has stopped the publication of his book. In a Democracy Now exclusive, Murray tells why he defied the British Foreign Office by posting a series of classified memos on his website. Murray was fired as ambassador to Uzbekistan after he openly criticized the British and U.S. governments for supporting human rights abuses under the Uzbek regime.

Lloyd steers us to a column on Craig Murray, Amitabh Pal's "U.S. needs some brave ambassadors like Craig Murray" (Amitabh Pal's Weekly Column, The Progressive):

The former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, is a genuine hero. Where is his American counterpart?
Murray has been an outspoken critic of Uzbekistan dictator Islam Karimov--and U.S. and U.K. indulgence of the tyrant--ever since Murray's stint as ambassador from 2002 to 2004. He has most recently been in the news for publishing documents on his website revealing that the American and the British governments got information from the Uzbek regime that it extracted from prisoners using torture. "Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the U.S. and UK to believe, that they and we are fighting the same war against terror," one of the documents up on his website says.
One of Murray's noteworthy achievements during his tenure was to order a British Embassy report on the human rights situation in the country, which found that at least two prisoners had been boiled to death by the Uzbek government. He was so beloved by pro-democracy activists that people held signs outside the U.K. Embassy in the capital Tashkent saying, "We Love Craig Murray." For his troubles, Tony Blair fired him, in part due to pressure from Washington, according to The Sunday Times of Scotland. The official reason was that he had engaged in sexual misconduct in exchange for visas, charges that the British Foreign Office later cleared him of.
In fact, another report by the British government praised him for bringing to attention human rights abuses in Uzbekistan.

And it's Thursday which means? For this community, a new column by a favorite voice. Doug was first to note Margaret Kimberley's "Oprah's Best Self" (Freedom Rider, The Black Commentator):

At the very moment that Frey was getting an extra 15 minutes of fame with Larry King, Oprah called into the show to protect her investment. She gave Frey a pass. The woman who exhorts her viewer/followers to be their best selves did a 180 degree turn and declared that mediocrity and untruthfulness aren't such a big deal after all.
"If you're an addict whose life has been moved by this story and you feel that what James went through was able to -- to help you hold on a little bit longer, and you connected to that, that is real. That is real. And it's -- it's irrelevant discussing, you know, what -- what happened or did not happen to the police."
Telling the truth is the most relevant thing for addicts. In recovery step number 10 addicts and alcoholics pledge that they have "Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it."
When we don't admit to being wrong we take ourselves a little too seriously. Oprah failed that test during her phone call with Larry King:
"And I feel about 'A Million Little Pieces' that although some of the facts have been questioned -- and people have a right to question, because we live in a country that lets you do that, that the underlying message of redemption in James Frey's memoir still resonates with me."
Oprah sounds a little like President Bush when he gets questions he doesn't like. In pointing out that we have the right to question, they give the impression that they would be happier if we didn't. Perhaps Bush inspired Frey. An untreated addict is president, why not an Oprah certified author too.
Torture and accountability (those are the themes of the highlights in this entry) take us Brandon's highlighting of Salim Muwakkil's "Reflections on Tookie's execution" (In These Times):
Last month's execution of Stanley Tookie Williams is part of a grotesque revenge ritual that likely will deepen the cycle of violence it purports to diminish.
Williams, a co-founder of the Crips street gang, had transformed himself into a passionate anti-gang activist during his near quarter century in prison. When he talked of personal redemption and racial pride, it had a ring of authenticity---and it rang a bell with other inmates. Record numbers of black ex-inmates now are flooding into communities that are woefully ill-equipped to absorb them. These returning community members are angrier than when they left. Cooped in fetid warehouses that long ago abandoned the goal of rehabilitation, they usually lack marketable skills and often scorn old-school black leadership. The resulting community friction is heating up and likely will worsen.
Williams embodied a style of leadership that is needed now more than ever, and America had much more to gain from his presence than his absence. He helped to bridge the widening gap between a growing class of criminalized "have nots" and an increasingly hostile black and white mainstream. Commuting his death sentence to life imprisonment would have allowed his message and his example to reach a larger audience.
But the state of California concluded that Williams' death would serve a greater purpose. In the name of the people, the state committed premeditated murder to foster the notion that committing murder warrents the punishment of death. This circular logic is more than just dizzying; it corrupts the very logic of criminal justice.

Eli advises everyone to check out Wally's latest, "Sammy" (The Daily Jot). (No excerpt because it's humor and I don't want to blow the set up.)

And we'll note this, per Molly, from Democracy Now!'s hour with Craig Murray today:

AMY GOODMAN: So what about this latest leaked document?
CRAIG MURRAY: I think there's no doubt now that extraordinary rendition is happening. I mean, this is just further documentary evidence. And the, you know, certainly, ethnic Uzbeks, the United States was bringing into Uzbekistan. So that, itself, proves that President Bush is lying in saying that they don't take people to countries that torture. And, you know, one of the amazing things is that even a country like Syria, which occasionally is in the sort of list of evil places, cooperates with the C.I.A. in the extraordinary rendition program and in giving intelligence. So, there is no doubt that George Bush and Condoleezza Rice have been lying through their teeth about extraordinary rendition for some time. And more and more information is going to come out about it. The Council of Europe is conducting an investigation, and I'm going to be testifying before that inquiry.
AMY GOODMAN: When is that?
CRAIG MURRAY: That's on Monday in Strasbourg.

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