Monday, January 30, 2006

Democracy Now: Harry Belafonte; Feminist Wire, Matthew Rothschild, Bill Scher, Betty, Third Estate Sunday Review

Cloture Vote to be Held Today on Alito Nomination

A vote to end debate on the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court will be held today at 4:30 pm. In order to succeed, Republicans supporting Alito's nomination must garner 60 votes to invoke cloture, or end debate and move the nomination to a floor vote. If successful, Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has scheduled a full floor vote for tomorrow at 11 am.

The filibuster against Alito is being led by Massachusetts Democratic Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. "This filibuster is historically important because it is sending a message to the President -- people will not tolerate his packing of the Supreme Court," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority.

"It's no secret that Judge Alito was chosen to please the extreme right wing of the Republican party after that same faction opposed the nomination of the President's own White House counsel [Harriet Miers]," said Senator Kennedy. "President Bush knew when he chose Judge Alito that he would be a polarizing figure. He selected him for that reason. For the same reason, the Senate must stand on principle and oppose his confirmation."

TAKE ACTION Urge your Democratic Senators to filibuster Alito!

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

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; Kennedy statement 1/30/06

The above, noted by Rochelle, is from the Feminist Wire. There's still time to be active on this issue. Now, we've got four highlights from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and there were many suggestions in the e-mails.

Peace Activist Teresa Grady Sentenced to 4 Months in Prison
In a update to a story we have been following - peace activist Teresa Grady was sentenced Friday for four months in prisons for spilling her own human blood at a military recruiting station in upstate New York to protest the Iraq war. Grady and her three co-defendants, known as the St. Patricks Four, received prison sentences totaling 20 months. They were all sentenced during the same week that a military jury in Colorado decided not to jail an Army interrogator even though he was found guilty of negligent homicide in the torturing and killing of an Iraqi detainee.

Pentagon Seeks Power to Wage Electronic Information War
A newly declassified Pentagon document shows Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has personally approved wide-ranging plans for the military to increase its ability to fight an electronic information war. The document recommends that the United States should seek the ability to "provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum". It states that US forces should be able to "disrupt or destroy the full spectrum of globally emerging communications systems, sensors, and weapons systems".
Pentagon Admits U.S. Public Exposed to Military Propaganda
According to the BBC, this means the US military is seeking the capability to knock out any telephone, networked computer, or radar system on the planet. The same document also raises new questions about the U.S. military's use of propaganda overseas. By law, the military is barred from directing propaganda toward American audiences. But the Pentagon acknowledges in the report that the U.S. public is increasingly exposed to propaganda disseminated overseas in psychological operations.

Haitian Priest Gerard Jean-Juste Released From Prison
In news from Haiti, one of the country's best known political prisoners -- the Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste has been temporarily released from jail in order to be treated for leukemia and pneumonia. Jean-Juste was first taken to a hospital in Port-Au-Prince where he briefly spoke with reporters. He was then flown to Miami where he will be treated. The interim Haitian government has been widely criticized for jailing the 59-year-old priest. Hundreds of religious, political and human rights leaders and 50 members of the U.S. Congress had called on the Haitian government to release him. Amnesty International had labeled Jean-Juste a "prisoner of conscience." While Jean-Juste has been temporarily freed, hundreds of other supporters of the ousted President Jean Bertrand Aristide -- including the well-known singer So Ann -- remain in jail.

The four items were selected by Kimberly, Micah, Doug and Liang. I went with their choices because they were news that hadn't been addressed here. All the headlines are worthy of note and you can use the link if you missed Democracy Now! today (or if you'll miss it later today, I believe it airs in some areas, on radio, later today and I have no idea on the TV schedule). Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for January 30, 2006

- Hamas Asks World Community Not to Cut Off Aid
- Momentum Grows for Filibuster to Block Alito Confirmation
- ABC News Anchor Seriously Injured by Bomb in Iraq
- Haitian Priest Gerard Jean-Juste Released From Prison
- Vet Who Spoke Out About War's Psychological Affects Commits Suicide
- 50,000 Soldiers Forced to Stay in Military Under Stop-Loss Program
- NASA Attempts to Silence Agency's Top Climate Scientist
- 2005: Halliburton's Most Profitable Year Ever
- Pentagon Admits U.S. Public Exposed to Military Propaganda
- Abramoff Tied to South African Apartheid-Era Assassin
- NYT Exposes U.S. Role in Coup of Haiti's Aristide

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

Harry Belafonte on Bush, Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and Having His Conversations with Martin Luther King Wiretapped by the FBI

We spend the hour with the legendary musician, actor and humanitarian, Harry Belafonte. He joins us in our firehouse studio to talk about why he recently called President Bush "the world's greatest terrorist;" racism and Hurricane Katrina; Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement and wars of imperialism and resistance.
The son of Caribbean-born immigrants, Harry Belafonte grew up on the streets of Harlem and Jamaica. After serving in World War II, he returned to New York and began a successful acting and singing career. Along with his rise to worldwide stardom, Belafonte became deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement and was close friends with the Rev. Martin Luther King. In the 1980's he helped initiate the "We Are the World" single which helped raise millions of dollars in aid to Africa. He also hosted former South African President Nelson Mandela on his triumphant visit to the United States. Belafonte has been a longtime critic of U.S. foreign policy, calling for an end to the embargo against Cuba, and opposing policies of war and global oppression. [includes rush transcript - partial]

This is an episode you don't won't to miss. Excerpt from Goodman's interview with Belafonte:

AMY GOODMAN: Harry Belafonte, speaking about people listening to you, I wanted to ask you about the surveillance scandal, President Bush wiretapping Americans without court warrant. This isn't the first time, of course, and you were a victim of it. Can you, in talking about that, also talk about your relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King, how you met, the conversations you had, and then recently learning about these wiretaps?
HARRY BELAFONTE: When I was discharged from the United States Navy, having served almost two years during the Second World War, I came back, like millions of us did, with an expectation that those principles for which we fought would be fully revealed and embraced by the American government and the American people -- the war was about democracy, the war was about ending white supremacy, the war was about ending colonialism -- only to discover that the Allies, the British, the French, the Dutch and the Americans, all who were the forefront of the democratic charge, having victoriously won that war, did not upon the celebration of victory do anything but go back to business as usual.
Segregation was more vigorously enforced in this country. Many citizens in this country did not have the right to vote. Opportunities were not on an equal level playing field. The peoples of Asia and Africa and the colonial Caribbean were not experiencing any relief from their colonial degradation. And many of us were very, very upset and very angry with the fact that here was democracy, having been fought for so vigorously, not reaching out to those of us who were the victims of the absence of democracy. And in that context, rather than submit, we joined and organized and did everything we could to have the principles of democracy in our Constitution upheld. That meant we went after voting, we went after ending the segregation laws. We did everything.
For that act, we were looked upon as unpatriotic, we were looked upon as people who were insurgents, that we were doing things to betray our nation and the tranquility of our citizens, when nothing could have been further from the truth. That engaged the F.B.I. That engaged the House on American Activities Committee. Many of our leaders were hounded and denied their livelihood. Their passports were taken away. So vigorous was that campaign of oppression that even American citizens committed suicide, and not by ones or twos, but by large numbers. It was a cruel, oppressive period. But we stayed the course, many of us. We resisted. And ultimately, we prevailed.
On the threshold of that experience came the Civil Rights Movement. As a matter of fact, we were the forerunners to the movement. We energized the spirit and people to make America live up to its code, live up to its great promise. In that context, the Civil Rights Movement began to do the same things that those before the movement did to vigorously pursue the unjust laws of this country and to turn them over.
J. Edgar Hoover and others in government began to put surveillance on the citizens. I have no idea how many court permissions were given to have our wires tapped, but nevertheless, we were. Everything we talked about were tapped. As a matter of fact, as an artist, while I was away, the innocence of my family and my children were invaded one evening by the F.B.I. agents who came while I was away, knocked at the door. My wife was very startled at the experience, and when she queried them as to why they were there, they said they had come to investigate me, because they felt that I was doing acts of treason towards our country.

We're noting the hoped for filibuster and we start with Billie's highlight, Matthew Rothschild's "Kerry Steps Up" (This Just In, The Progressive):

Kerry and Kennedy can't pull off this filibuster by themselves.
They need the support of every Democrat who opposes Alito. They need the support of Minority Leader Harry Reid, who should step down, as BuzzFlash insists, if he can't unite the caucus around such a pivotal battle. They need the support of any Democrat who aspires to lead the party in 2008, and that includes Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Russ Feingold.
This is put up or shut up time.
And progressives will not look favorably upon those who don't have the courage of their convictions at this critical moment.

On the topic of Alito and filibuster, Lyle notes Bill Scher's "The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown" (Liberal Oasis):

Last week's disappointing performance by Senator Barack Obama on NBC's Meet The Press unfortunately was not an aberration. We got a repeat performance yesterday.
On ABC's This Week, he was asked if he would support the Alito filibuster attempt led by Sens. John Kerry and Ted Kennedy. His response:
I will be supporting the filibuster because I think Judge Alito in fact is somebody who is contrary to core American values, not just liberal values...
...In particular, during times of war, we need a court that is independent, and is going to provide some check on the executive branch. And he has not shown himself willing to do that, repeatedly.
I will say this though.
I think that the Democrats have to do a much better job in making their case on these issues.
These last minute efforts using procedural maneuvers inside the Beltway, I think, has been the wrong way of going about it.
Oh, so "the Democrats" are the problem. Because they weren't "making their case."
Newsflash to Obama: You. Are. A. Democrat.

And now we're going to do a very long excerpt. For a number of reasons. First, it's worthy of a long excerpt. Second, we all wanted to note it in full at The Third Estate Sunday Review but there just wasn't time (long entries . . . when you copy and paste them in Blogger/Blogspot, they run together and it's time consuming and a pain to do the spacing on them). The plan is to note it next weekend. (With an update to it.) Third, it's on the topic of Alito, the Court and abortion. Betty filled in for Rebecca Friday and wrote "Betty here, weighing in on Alito and the Democratic Party" (Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude):

So Monday looks like the big test. Are we going to give it our all and let our Senators know we won't stand for this? And will the Democratic Party listen to us?

This really is a line in the sand.

For Alito and for the Democratic Party.

I'll start with Alito. As a Black woman and a mother, I don't see a thing worth getting excited about. His record indicates a
hostility to civil rights. Or maybe you think justice can be served without black people? Alito doesn't seem to think that we have a right to sit on juries. I guess Black people aren't necessary to justice. Or is it that we just can't understand things like "guilty" or "innocent?"

Here's one thing I can understand. If a police officer doesn't have a warrant to search a ten-year-old girl, you don't strip search her. And this isn't like CAPS. That's Concerned Alumini for Princeton which Alito was a member of as late as 1985 when he was putting it on a job application. He claims he has no recollections of it today.

Which is sort of funny if you think about how much time he spent at the hearings telling everyone why he probably signed up. If someone doesn't remember, you'd think, "I don't remember" would say it all. But CAPS wasn't happy that Princeton was opening enrollment to women and felt that people of color, along with gays and lesbians, were forgetting their place which, CAP seemed to think, was the back of the bus.

Back to the ten-year-old girl. Doe v. Grody was about the police being given a search warrant to search a house and the decision by the police that somehow a search warrent meant pull the clothes off a ten-year-old girl.

I was surprised that the press didn't attempt to go with this story. Every woman I know who is a mother responds to this story with, "He did what?" Because Alito was the judge hearing this issue and he didn't see a problem with it. And it was in 2004. Not in the eighties, not in the seventies.

Then there's the issue of who decides about our bodies. Women, of all races, may find themselves back on the plantation as our bodies stop being our own. Reproductive rights are women's rights. I'm glad, happy, thrilled when any male supports us on this but, in the end, this is about our having the final say about our bodies.

I've never had to face the decision of having an abortion. But the option is out there. And no one, male or female, should be able to take it away from the woman who finds herself pregnant.
Ava and C.I. were hoping to a do a piece, last week at The Third Estate Sunday Review, on how abortion is portrayed on TV but time ran out while everyone was working on that edition.

There has been this demonizing of a medical procedure. It used to be you'd see men on TV screaming about it but they seem to have learned that it's better to create a front group of women to push their words through.

So now we get "concerned" women. Any woman who is truly concerned about another woman doesn't try to limit her options. It's a medical procedure and unless you're the one contemplating it, you've really got no say in whether a woman has it or not. It's about as much your business if Jane Roe has one as it is whether she has her tonsils removed. It's her medical decision.

But instead, it's being demonized. A very good friend told me last week that she was opposed to abortion. I was shocked. Because she's very pro-choice. We were talking about Alito and about how reproductive rights need to be protected. In the course of conversation, she said she was going to tell me something she'd never told anyone. Right away, I'm curious. That's when she said that for her, she couldn't ethically have an abortion. (Ethically was the word she used.)

"But you're so pro-choice," I replied.

She is. And she's reached her own personal decision. But she thinks that's what you do, you keep the procedure legal and available and women who want to utilize it, can. She said she never talks about it because she fears it would be misunderstood and someone would lump her in with the anti-choice crowd.

She's not anti-choice. But she feels that a woman needs to make her own decisions. She's not for any limitations or erosions on reproductive rights. I have a family member who's the same way.

Abortion has been a huge issue in conversations I've taken part in during the last two weeks. I've always been pro-choice and I'd usually leave it at that. It's the sort of thing you toss out and that's really all for a lot of women my age. Abortion has always been legal in our lifetime.

Alito's anti-choice positions have resulted in many women who never went beyond "pro-choice" in their conversations having some serious discussions about it. I found out about two friends abortions in the past week. I wasn't aware them because I didn't know them when they made their decisions. One has four children and was nearing graduation. Her ex popped back into her life during spring break of her last semester. He'd "changed" and wanted to be with her and his children. He hung around for about half the week before he disappeared again. Right before graduation, as she was lining up job interviews, she learned she was pregnant.

He was out of the picture, again, and she was looking at not being able to find a job and having five children one of which would be an infant. She made her decision and she didn't regret it then or now. (And for anyone wanting to scream "Birth control!" she was on birth control pills.)
Women make these choices not because they're bored or wanting to try something new (like a hair cut) but because they seriously weigh the realities.

Another friend told me about why she had divorced. I never knew anything except for the fact that it wasn't a happy marriage. He liked rough sex. He liked a show of force. He raped her. She'd wake up in the middle of the night to him forcing himself on her. Before they married, they had slept together and it was never a problem. They got married and all the sudden everything she did was wrong and he'd tell her, "My mother . . ."

She thinks he had some issues with his mother and that's why he ended up not being able to have sex without it being rough or rape. He really had a need to degrade to get in the mood.
She ended it and kicked him out. (It was her house. She'd bought it before they were married.)
He whined about having left something at the house and kept calling her at work. She finally left the door in the garage unlocked and called him from work to tell him to get his stuff and get out.
She came home that night and was making dinner when it turned out he was still there. He raped her.

She told me her story and asked me to mention it if we did a roundtable on abortion at The Third Estate Sunday Review. When Rebecca asked me if I'd like to grab one of her blog days, I called my friend to see if it was okay to share it here and she was fine with it.

She wanted the man out of her life. She wasn't on birth control because she wasn't having sex. She had filed for divorce and was not in the mood to be around any man. After he raped her and left, she had a fear that she'd end up pregnant and that is what happened.

"Is it my obligation to explain to the world how bad my marriage was?"

That was her question. She didn't think so. She was embarrassed that it had gone on while they were married and that she had made excuses for it for three months. She'd talk to him about not liking the rough sex and he'd apologize but then he would do it again and the rough sex quickly turned to rape. That's when she knew she had to end her marriage.

She went into therapy to deal with the pain of her marriage and that was incredibly hard for her because she's a very private person. She didn't want a child with this man. She didn't want any connection to him, she just wanted him out of her life.

She had the abortion before the divorce was granted because she didn't want him trying to use her pregancy to get back into her life and she was told that the judge might ask her, as a formality, if she was pregnant before he granted the divorce.

She said that there are people like her who do not go on Oprah and spill every detail of their lives for public consumption.

That's an excerpt. The full entry is worth reading. And worth thinking about as the vote looms.

Did you check out The Third Estate Sunday Review's "Editorial: Will the Dems Stand Up or Stab Us in the Back?"? Here's an excerpt (and it's the final highlight, requested by Gina, Melinda, Joey, West and Jordan):

Do we believe that senators will use the filibuster for this?

Some of us are hopeful, some of us are guarded and some of us are flat out disgusted with the party's "leaders" and don't think there's a chance of a filibuster.

But we're all doing our part to insist upon a filibuster.

Is that because those disgusted are such good friends of the others that we'll freely give of our time for something we doubt will happen? No.

It's because the base is calling the leadership out. The people are saying filibuster.

What's the party going to do?

We know what they should do, fight. Listen to the base's cries of "Fight!" and fight.

We believe in fighting for what you believe in. We believe in standing up.

And we also believe in knowing who won't fight.

If the Dems don't filibuster, the spineless will be on full view.

We'll know they can't be counted on.

There's a scene in Shampoo where Goldie Hawn's Jill confronts Warren Beatty's George on his infidelity throughout their relationship.

JILL: So who else was there besides Jackie? Huh? . . . huh?
GEORGE: Baby, don't do this. I do love you.
JILL: Obviously there were others, weren't there?
GEORGE: Obviously.
JILL: How many?
GEORGE: What do you wanna know for?
JILL: I just want to know, that's all.
GEORGE: What difference does it make?
JILL: I just want to know while we were seeing each other . . . I just don't want girls looking at me and knowing and me not knowing . . .
GEORGE: Baby, please don't . . . I love you.
JILL: I don't want to be a fool! . . . I want to look them in the eye and say, I know!
GEORGE: Baby, don't do this --
JILL: -- it'll help me if you'll tell me.
GEORGE: -- please, baby --
JILL: -- no, it'll help me, really --
JILL: I'll know you've lied to me . . . all along. I'll know you're incapable of . . . love . . . that'll help me . . . not now, but eventually.

(From the script by Robert Towne and Warren Beatty)

That's really where we are right now. The loyal voters are Jill. We've been willfully blind to what's gone on (and continues to go on) behind our backs. We've believed the sweet talk. We've accepted the excuses.

Why demand Democrats filibuster? Because you believe in reproductive rights. Because you believe in standing up. And because you believe in knowing the truth. It'll help you. Not, if they take a dive, the morning after, "but eventually" (as Jill says). It will open our eyes.

Early in Shampoo, Jill has an offer for a modeling job that will take her to Egypt. She's interested in the job but putting her life on hold because she thinks George is with her, by her side. When she realizes that George is in it for George, she takes the modeling job and gets on with her life.

Knowing who will fight and who will cave will help the loyal base get on with their lives too. It will certainly make it easier to toss those mass mailings begging for donations into the trash without a second thought. It'll make us rightly skeptical of certain Dems who, when they campaign for president in 2008, speak of how they will fight for us.

What it will be is a very revealing moment.

We hope it doesn't come to that. We hope the Dems filibuster (and we hope the filibuster is successful). But it's time to call them on it one way or another. It's time to know if they're going to fight or continue to roll over.

Need help getting active? We'll note this from

Support the Filibuster - Defeat Alito
After all your calls, emails and action, two senators are taking the lead in defeating ultra-conservative Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass) are organizing the filibuster of Judge Alito and they need the support of 39 other senators in order to block a straight up or down vote.
Please make as many phone calls as you can before Monday at 4:30pm, when Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will call for a vote to end debate on Alito. Of the self-proclaimed women's rights supporters in the Senate, more are announcing public support for the filibuster every hour. Hillary Clinton and Dianne Feinstein have just signed on in support, and more of those who have offered private support need to give it publicly. Others are on the fence, and need to hear from us that their support for women's rights is hollow unless they back the filibuster and vote NO on cloture.
NOW has put together a
list of senators (self-described women's rights supporters) who need our firm encouragement to come out publicly and join the filibuster (and some, like Chafee and Snowe, haven't even said they'll vote NO on the nomination!).
Remember, without a filibuster, Judge Alito WILL be confirmed. In a straight up or down vote, we need 51 "NO" votes to defeat Alito, but in a filibuster, we need only 41 votes to block Frist's effort to end debate.
We've asked for a lot from you over the last few months, and together we've made great progress --just a week ago a filibuster seemed out of the question! Now that we've come this close, we need your help with this final push. If Judge Alito takes a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court -- replacing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor --all of our hard-fought rights are in danger.
Please call one or more of the Senators below, especially if you live in their state (click on the Senator's name for district office numbers). Please share this alert widely and ask friends to join the fight!

Senators to call (list as of 1/27/06 4:30pm) - an updated list is available
on our website:
Mark Pryor (D- AR)
Blanche Lambert Lincoln (D- AR)
Ken Salazar (D- CO)
Joseph I. Lieberman (D- CT)
Thomas R. Carper (D- DE)
Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D- DE)
Bill Nelson (D- FL)
Daniel K. Akaka (D- HI)
Daniel K. Inouye (D- HI)
Tom Harkin (D- IA)
Barack Obama (D- IL)
Evan Bayh (D- IN)
Barbara A. Mikulski (D- MD)
Carl Levin (D- MI)
Mark Dayton (D- MN)
Max Baucus (D- MT)
Byron L. Dorgan (D- ND)
Robert Menendez (D- NJ)
Frank Lautenberg (D- NJ)
Jeff Bingaman (D- NM)
Charles Schumer (D- NY)
Lincoln D. Chafee (R- RI)
Patrick J. Leahy (D- VT)
Maria Cantwell (D- WA)
Patty Murray (D- WA)
Herb Kohl (D- WI)
John D. Rockefeller, IV (D- WV)
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[This editorial was written by The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; 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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Post corrected, by Jess, for font issues.