Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Democracy Now: Government spying, Ali Fadhil; BuzzFlash, Eleanor Smeal, Bill Scher, Tom Hayden, Medea Benjamin ...

Military Opens Door To Executions At Several Military Prisons
Meanwhile, the US military has made what it calls a major revision to its rules covering military executions. The new rules would allow for executions at prisons aside from Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. That prison is currently the lone authorized site. Meanwhile, the military is denying a spokesperson's initial claims that the rule changes could apply to detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.

European Investigators Says US Practices "Gangster style methods"
The Swiss politician heading a European investigation into allegations the CIA operated secret prisons in Europe accused the Bush administration Tuesday of QUOTE "gangster style methods." In an interim report, Dick Marty, a Swiss Senator, wrote QUOTE: "Individuals have been abducted, deprived of their liberty and all rights, and transported to different destinations in Europe, to be handed over to countries in which they have suffered degrading treatment and torture." Marty added there is credible evidence that points to the operation of the secret CIA prisons, but did not provide any details.

UN: Indonesia Killed Over 180,000 Timorese
In other news, a UN commission has submitted the final report of its inquiry into the 24-year Indonesian occupation of East Timor. The report concludes Indonesian forces caused the deaths of over 180,000 East Timorese. It says 90% of these deaths were caused by forced starvation, and that Indonesian forces a used napalm and chemical weapons to poison food and water. The report calls for East Timor to be paid substantial reparations not just from Indonesia, but also the countries that supported its military occupation, including Australia and the US. The Indonesian government has denied the reports' main conclusions. Last week, Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono said: "This is a war of numbers and data about things that never happened."

Rose Bouziane Nader, Matriarch of Nader Family, Dead at 99
And Rose Bouziane Nader has died. A native of Lebanon she was the matriarch of the family of consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Nader moved to the US in the 1920s where she became a celebrated teacher, civic advocate and author. She would have been 100 years old next month.

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Joan, Kendrick, Marci and Liz. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for January 25, 2006

- Senate Judiciary Committee Votes to Recommend Samuel Alito
- Florida Death Row Inmate Granted Last-Minute Reprieve
- Sixth Year of World Social Forum Continues in Venezuela
- UN: Indonesia Killed Over 180,000 Timorese
- Parliamentary Elections Begin In Occupied Territories
- Google To Censor Search Results in China
- Military Opens Door To Executions At Several Military Prisons
- Senators Accuse Bush Administration of Trumping Katrina Investigation

AG Gonzales' Defense Of U.S. Domestic Spy Program Draws Protests and Criticism from Law Professors, Students

On Tuesday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appeared at Georgetown Law School to deliver an address defending the NSA domestic spy programs. During the course of his address, nearly 30 students stood up one-by-one and turned their back on Gonzales in protest. A panel of law professors addressed Gonzales' speech, calling it illegal. We play excerpts of Gonzales' speech and law professor David Cole responding. [includes rush transcript]

Iraqi Journalist Ali Fadhil Describes Arrest by U.S. Forces: "They Used Explosives and Shot Inside My Home"

We look at the story of journalist and doctor Ali Fadhil, who was detained by U.S. forces in Iraq. On January 8th, American troops in Baghdad blasted their way into Ali Fadhil's home, an Iraqi journalist working for the London daily, The Guardian, and TV's Channel 4 in Britain. Fadhil joins us in our Firehouse studio to describe his harrowing experience.

EXCLUSIVE - "Fallujah: The Real Story," Documentary by Iraqi Journalist Captures the Horrors of the U.S. Siege

Ali Fadhil is perhaps best known for his documentary film on the aftermath of the US siege on Falluja in November, 2004. In the assault, American and Iraqi forces surrounded Fallujah, expelling the city's residents, bombing hospitals and shelling buildings. We broadcast excerpts of the documentary, produced last year by Guardian Films for Channel Four News.

Now we have highlights and we'll start with four highlights on Alito. First, George notes a "slap down for the weak Dems" in the form of an editorial, "Message to John Kerry: All You Have to do is Stand up to Take a Stand" (BuzzFlash):

Now, John Kerry is contemplating a second run for the Presidency. He has strategically criticized the Bush Administration and worked on building up a list of supporters and contributors, employing, among other tools, an aggressive Internet strategy.
Most recently, he posted a "petition" that asked people to support him in getting other senators to oppose Alito. The petition concludes, "I am honored to join John Kerry by putting my name in the Congressional Record against Judge Alito. I call on you to do the same with your vote."
So here's the Kerry trade-off, you give him your name and e-mail address and it is added to his list of potential campaign contributors and supporters. In return, Kerry votes "No" against Alito (as if a Democratic Senator from Massachusetts could get away with voting "Yes"), knowing that it doesn't matter because there are 55 Republicans and they will all vote for Alito, unless there is a defector or two. The petition is meaningless, except as a way for Kerry to grow his campaign list. He knows that; we know that.
By now, it shouldn't be James Webb, a Bush Administration official, who should be expressing the outrage we all feel. It should be Kerry. He was vilified, slandered, and filleted by the Bush campaign thugs, and he is still pretending it is of value to lose, as long as you get a high vote count.
Meanwhile, the Busheviks are laughing all the way to the coronation. They rightfully disdain and deride "symbolic votes." They only are interested in victories. And they will get Sam Alito on the Supreme Court, because the Dems don't have the guts to filibuster him.
After awhile, people stop voting for Democrats for national office because they simply don't fight hard enough. And people don't define leadership by empty rhetoric that's not backed up by action and victories.

On yesterday's Senate Judiciary Committee vote, Cheryl notes Eleanor Smeal's "Judiciary Democrats Stand Up Against Alito" (The Smeal Report From Inside Washington, Ms. Magazine):

Senator Schumer (D-CA) called Alito far out of the mainstream, and said that the cause for greatest alarm is with Roe v. Wade, "because Judge Alito repeatedly and inexplicably refused to say whether he still held the views that he once stated so proudly, that, quote, 'the Constitution does not protect,' unquote, a woman's right to choose ... In light of all the evidence, to suggest, as some have, that Judge Alito will not vote to overrule Roe v. Wade is to ask us not just to take a leap of faith but to suspend disbelief. Indeed, it asks too much."
Senator Durbin (D-IL), the Democratic Whip in the Senate, reminded the committee that Harriet Miers was supposed to be the Supreme Court nominee, but "[s]he didn't pass the litmus test of the extreme right of the Republican Party. She was rejected by the Republican Party to the point where the president had to withdraw her nomination. The same groups that gave Harriet Miers the back of their hand embraced Samuel Alito, raising important questions."
Moreover, Senator Durbin pointed out that of the 193 cases decided by 5-4 votes in the Supreme Court in the last ten years, Sandra Day O'Connor was the deciding vote in 148 cases.
With these incredibly strong statements from the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, there is no question we will see a very large number of 'no' votes. The only question is, will the Democrats push for a filibuster? I am encouraged after today's committee vote.

Less encouraged is Lynda who notes Bill Scher's "The Worst-Case Alito Scenario Looms" (Liberal Oasis):

The Dem approach has the appearance of going through the motions -- to give the allusion that a fight was waged, that principle was stood upon -- in hopes that the base won't be livid.
But the grassroots should not be soothed by ineffectual "No" votes.
Sure, there are times when a party-line "No" vote serves an important purpose.
It allows the public to see what damage the party in power alone is inflicting, presenting an opportunity to draw favorable distinctions between the parties.
In that case, a "No" vote shows the public where your principles are, letting voters know how they can reverse the present policies in a year or two at the next congressional elections.
But when the particular damage being caused is impossible to quickly rectify -- like the gutting of Social Security -- you can't play the game and look principled.
A lifetime appointment that will strengthen the right-wing's hold on the Supreme Court will cause that kind of long-term damage.
So if 41 or more Dems speechify as to all the damage Alito will wreak, yet choose not to do what they can to stop that damage, they will look like spineless idiots.

And Debbie wants us to be sure to remember "one of the scariest Alito episodes" --
from Mike Ervin's "Alito a threat to persons with disabilities" (The Progressive Media Project, The Progressive):

In March 2001, another ADA case came before Alito (Pirolli v. World Flavors). In the case, the plaintiff, Kenneth Pirolli, a man with developmental disabilities and an IQ of 75, charged that his co-workers stuffed him into a garbage can, beat him and tried to sodomize him with a broom.
The lower trial court judge dismissed the case, saying the man experienced nothing more than "macho horseplay" and "adolescent rough-housing." Fortunately, the 3rd Circuit disagreed and reinstated the case. Alito again, however, dissented. According to him, "Pirolli's brief never asserts that his work environment was one that a reasonable, non-retarded person would find hostile or abusive."
In 2002, Alito joined a decision seriously weakening the protections of the Fair Housing Act. He excused local zoning boards from having to identify reasonable accommodations needed to provide equal access for people with disabilities.
Such a record of hostility to the rights of people with disabilities must be scrutinized.
We need Supreme Court justices that respect the rights of all Americans --including those with disabilities.

Now, we turn to war & peace with four highlights. First up, Mia notes that history is rewritten ("and people written out") all the time and steers us towards Tom Hayden's "No Peace Movement, No Peace" (The Huffington Post):

First, I want to pay tribute to the unknown soldiers of the peace movement. I know that many of you wonder if your countless acts of protest matter at all. You feel a constant pressure to show up at rallies lest the media announce that our numbers are in decline.
Your bodies might be counted in demonstrations, but your voices don't seem to count at all, and are never quoted in the media.
This is not the first time. Even now, the Kennedy Library in Boston is planning a historic conference on Vietnam, featuring generals, journalists and politicians, but not a single voice from the anti-Vietnam war movement.
The media and politicians acknowledge something they call "public opinion" without ever associating it with the anti-war movement. For example, in explaining the shifting mood in Congress in January, the Washington Post made eight references to the factor of "public opinion", as if it was a magical floating balloon, without a single mention of organized lobbying, petitioning or protests.

A study of that same magic balloon in Foreign Affairs [December 2005] says that "the only thing remarkable about the current war in Iraq is how precipitously American public support has dropped off", but goes on to say that this decline of war support
"has little to do with whether or not there is an active anti-war movement at home. There has not been much of one in the case of the Iraq war..."
This should make you feel angry and motivated, not meaningless and depressed. It is not in the nature of elites to recognize people in the streets, because that would be acknowledging that large numbers of people are fed up with the politics of proper channels. In this case, the largest numbers of any anti-war protests in American history: from one million in February 2003 to the 600,0000 at the Republican National Convention in 2004. Or in the campaigns of Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich, which surpassed the 1968 insurgency of the late Senator Eugene McCarthy who passed away this week.

Now in the "Will you or won't you?" news. A number of members (and a few visitors) e-mailed about a "controversy" that started brewing yesterday. Who knew?

Joel Stein (I loosely know Stein) wrote a column and suddenly it was Dixie Chick Time with a dash of Susan Sontag bashing tossed in. Here's an excerpt of Stein's "Warriors and wusses" (Los Angeles Times):

I DON'T SUPPORT our troops. This is a particularly difficult opinion to have, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to put bumper stickers on his car. Supporting the troops is a position that even Calvin is unwilling to urinate on.
I'm sure I'd like the troops. They seem gutsy, young and up for anything. If you're wandering into a recruiter's office and signing up for eight years of unknown danger, I want to hang with you in Vegas.

And I've got no problem with other people -- the ones who were for the Iraq war -- supporting the troops. If you think invading Iraq was a good idea, then by all means, support away. Load up on those patriotic magnets and bracelets and other trinkets the Chinese are making money off of.
But I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken -- and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.

He's a humorist so that needs to be factored in. (Which means there is a built in rhythm in his writing whether he writes something humorous or something "straight.") Whether people are factoring that in or not, who knows? They may just see it as "flippant." Stein's against the war and doesn't feel the need to hide behind a slogan (created by a p.r. firm to shut down dissent). He's offering an opinion. It's not one that I'm hearing for the first time but, possibly, some of those enraged are shocked because it's the first time they've heard it. I actually heard similar statements on campuses this past weekend. Those gathered who were hearing those type of remarks for the first time didn't feel the need to scream, "Burn him at the stake! Infindel!" But then, the students I spoke with were seeking to widen their horizons, not limit them.

We won't slap down Stein. That Dixie-Chicking still exists is rather sad. Hopefully, what we're hearing is the death rattle of that nonsese.

Taking the topic a little further back is Ken's highlight, Ron Walters' "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Anti-war Legacy" (The Chicago Defender):

This Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, I re-read his famous speech, 'Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,' delivered on April 4, 1967, and I was reminded once again how fundamentally it speaks to us today. In doing so, it also reminded me that many have attempted to devalue the intellectual quality of Dr. King's vision by referring to him only as an 'orator.' But his message was not only eloquent, it was a thoughtfully reasoned critique of the American dilemma in Vietnam that clarifies many current questions.
While counseling Americans to move beyond 'smooth patriotism' to the 'high ground of firm dissent,' he also had to answer his critics, some of whom were his colleagues. They felt he was endangering the civil rights movement by opposing the Vietnam conflict.
He countered by suggesting that such criticism reflected their ignorance of the world we live in, implying that there was a connection between domestic and foreign politics. The example he used was that the poverty program, enacted with such hope, has been 'broken and eviscerated' by the diversion of spending for the war. Moreover, he related upon confronting Black youth who had participated in violent rebellions in American cities, telling them that Molotov cocktails and guns would not bring justice, they raised the example of Vietnam as America's violent method of resolving conflict.

The issue of whether Hillary Clinton and Condi Rice would face off in the 2008 presidential race came up a lot this past weekend. Since I support neither for a potential president, I was asked which woman I would support? I listed five and one of them is the author of Lyle's highlight, Medea Benjamin's "When Will US Women Demand Peace?" (The Nation):

Whenever I travel to international gatherings to talk about the war in Iraq, economic development and women's rights, the question I get asked most frequently is: "Where are the women in the United States? Why aren't they rising up?"
I hear it from women in Africa, who have lost funding for their health clinics because of the Bush Administration's ban on even talking about abortion; from Iraqi women, who are suffering the double oppression of occupation and rising fundamentalism; from European women, who wonder how we can tolerate the crumbling of our meager social services; and from Latina women opposed to unresponsive governments that represent a tiny elite.
The question is variously posed with anger, contempt, curiosity or sympathy. But always, there is a sense of disappointment. What happened to the proud suffragettes who chained themselves to the White House fence for the right to vote? What happened to the garment workers, whose struggles for decent working conditions inspired the first International Women's Day in 1910? What about those who emulated Rosa Parks, risking their lives or livelihoods to confront the evils of racism? Given their tradition of activism, why aren't American women today rising up against a government that dragged them into war with lies, that spies on their peaceful activities and diverts money from their children's schools or their mothers' nursing homes to pay for an immoral war?

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