Friday, January 13, 2006

Democracy Now: Iran, New Orleans, Alito v. Pacifica; Amitabh Pal, Robert Parry, Ellen Goodman ...

Reports: German Intelligence Aided US Air Strikes in Iraq
This news from Germany -- The German intelligence service is coming under heavy criticism amid revelations its agents lent support to the United States invasion of Iraq. According to several media reports, German Federal Intelligence Service agents in Baghdad helped select at least one bombing target aimed at Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in which twelve civilians were killed. The operation was reportedly approved by the government of former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, despite Germany’s public opposition to the war at the time.
Wal-Mart Mulls Challenge as Maryland Passes Health Law
In Maryland, state legislators passed a law Thursday that would require retail giant Wal-Mart to increase health care spending for its employees. The measure is expected to be replicated in other states. The measure overrode a gubernatorial veto and followed an intense lobbying battle between Wal-Mart and labor groups. Under the new law, employers with 100,000 or more workers must devote at least 8 percent of their payrolls to health insurance, or pay the difference into a state Medicaid fund. A Wal-Mart spokesperson told the New York Times the company is considering bringing a lawsuit to challenge the law. Democratic State Senator Gloria Lawlah, who sponsored the bill, said: "This is not a Wal-Mart bill, it's a Medicaid bill." This bill says to the conglomerates, 'Don't dump the employees that you refuse to insure into our Medicaid systems.' “
Cité Soleil Residents Demonstrate Against UN Raids
In Haiti, residents of the poor community Cite Soleil held a massive demonstration Thursday in protest of a planned UN armed raid on their neighorhoods. UN mission head Juan Gabriel Valdes vowed a raid was imminent last week amid growing calls from Haiti’s business leaders and foreign officials. Aid workers are already reporting one person has been killed and 17 injured in clashes with UN troops this week. The injured included a 12-year old girl. John Joel Joseph, a community organizer for Lavalas, the political party of ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide told the Associated Press: "The population is standing up to say 'No' to U.N. persecution in Cite Soleil. Every day, we are counting dead bodies."
Iran Threatens To Break Off UN Inspections Over Nuclear Row
This news on the Iran nuclear stand-off -- On Thursday, Iran threatened to halt snap inspections of its nuclear sites by the United Nations if it is referred to the Security Council. The protocol allows intrusive and short-notice inspections of the country’s nuclear sites. The move came after the United States, Britain, France and Germany said Thursday that nuclear talks with Iran were at a dead end and the issue should be brought before the Council. The crisis over Iran’s nuclear program intensified this week after Iran removed seals at three nuclear facilities following a two-year freeze. Iran says its nuclear programs are solely for the peaceful generation of electricity.
The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Kansas, Eddie, Melody and JoanDemocracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):
Headlines for January 13, 2006

- Alito Wraps Up Testimony As Aides Predict Confirmation
- Iran Threatens To Break Off Inspections Over Nuclear Row
- Hajj Stampede Kills At Least 345 Muslim Pilgrims
- DNA Tests Confirm Guilt of Executed Virginia Murderer
- Wal-Mart Mulls Challenge as Maryland Passes Health Law
- Reports: German Intelligence Aided US Air Strikes in Iraq
- WFP Warns 2M At Risk in Kenyan Food Drought
- Man Who Shot Pope Released In Turkey
Crisis Over Iran's Nuclear Program Intensifies

Iran threatened to halt snap inspections of its nuclear sites by the United Nations if its nuclear program is referred to the Security Council. The move came after the United States, Britain, France and Germany said Thursday that nuclear talks with Iran were at a dead end and the issue should be brought before the Council. We speak with Middle East and Iran expert Ervand Abrahamian of Baruch College. [includes rush transcript]
Rebuilding New Orleans: The Struggle Continues

We look at the the ongoing struggles around rebuilding New Orleans after the Hurricane Katrina disaster. We speak with Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and a former mayor of New Orleans and Tracie Washington, an attorney representing a number of evacuees in New Orleans who are staying in hotels and are facing eviction.
FCC vs. The League of Women Voters: A Look at the Case That Pitted Samuel Alito Against Pacifica Radio

On the final day of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito on Capitol Hill, we look at the 1984 case of that pitted Samuel Alito against Pacifica Radio. The case - known as the FCC v. League of Women Voters - centered on the constitutionality of a law that prohibited the airing of editorials by any public radio and TV outlet that received funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. We speak with the attorney in the case, Frederic Woocher.
We'll get the highlights started with Iran because what better way for the Bully Boy to distract from his spying scandal?  Make war noises, scream rally round the leader!  Nedra steers us to Amitabh Pal's "Iran's nuclear path is a challenge" (Amitabh Pal's Weekly Column, The Progresive):
The Bush Administration’s nuclear policy is not very reassuring to other countries, including Iran. From scuttling multiple nuclear arms-control treaties to updating its nuclear arsenal, the United States has in recent years conveyed the wrong signals to the rest of the world.
And when it comes to Iran specifically, there’s been a strong contingent of neocons that has been urging Bush to attack the nation.
Republican Senators have introduced bills calling for Iranian “regime change.” Bush himself has stated that he “will not tolerate” a nuclear Iran, and has named it a charter member of the “axis of evil.” In addition, the Bush Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, (its major policy statement on the subject of nuclear weapons), named in 2002 seven countries as targets, including Iran. Although the troubles in Iraq make a U.S. ground invasion unlikely, military action on a smaller scale may be a possibility, with potentially destabilizing ramifications.
And then there’s Israel, the only nuclear power in the Middle East, with an existing nuclear arsenal roughly equal to that of France or Britain, according to analyst Avner Cohen in the April 2005 issue of Current History magazine. Ariel Sharon on a number of occasions has made belligerent statements about Iran, although he has denied having any immediate unilateral plans to attack Iran.
So what needs to be done to ensure that Iran doesn’t become another member of the nuclear club?
The United States has to provide security guarantees, and make Iran confident that it will not suffer the fate of two of its neighbors.
Plus, all the five established nuclear powers have to seriously undertake their commitment under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and take concrete steps to get rid of their nuclear arsenals.
The nuclear hypocrisy of the five established powers has been one of the major reasons that Iran’s nuclear program has widespread support among its populace.
As Bully Boy eyes Iran (eyes with blood lust), on this thirteenth day of January, the US military fatality count stands at 34 and at 2214 since the invasion.
Alito wasn't present, but the hearings went on.  Patrik notes Robert Parry's "Alito & the Ken Lay Factor" (Consortium News)  which provides a break down of unitary theory and the impact it could have:
The "unitary" theory of presidential power sounds too wonkish for Americans to care about, but the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court could push this radical notion of almost unlimited Executive authority close to becoming a reality.
Justice Alito, as a longtime advocate of the theory, would put the Court's right-wing faction on the verge of having a majority committed to embracing this constitutional argument that would strip regulatory agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission, of their independence.
If that happens, George W. Bush and his successors would have the power to instruct these agencies what to do on regulations and enforcement, opening up new opportunities to punish enemies and reward friends. The "unitary" theory asserts that all executive authority must be in the President's hands, without exception.
The Supreme Court's embrace of the "unitary executive" would sound the death knell for independent regulatory agencies as they have existed since the Great Depression, when they were structured with shared control between the Congress and the President. Putting the agencies under the President's thumb would tip the balance of Washington power to the White House and invite abuses by letting the Executive turn on and off enforcement investigations.
For instance, if the "unitary executive" had existed in 2001, Bush might have been tempted to halt the SEC accounting investigation that spelled doom for Enron Corp. and his major financial backer, Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay. As it was, the relative independence of the SEC ensured that the accounting probe went forward and the fraudulent schemes propping up the Houston-based company were exposed.
Direct presidential control of the FCC would give Bush and his subordinates the power to grant and revoke broadcast licenses without the constraints that frustrated Richard Nixon's attempts to punish the Washington Post company for its Watergate reporting. Bush also would be free to order communication policies bent in ways that would help his media allies and undermine his critics.
The Federal Election Commission, which oversees political finances, is another agency that would fall under presidential control. Hypothetically at least, influence-peddlers like Jack Abramoff who spread campaign contributions to corrupted lawmakers could get a measure of protection if the President didn't want the agency to pursue their violations.
The hearings or "hearings."  A number of topics were addressed (and misaddressed) today.  I'm not as tickled by the term "stink bomb" as one Senator was.  I will note that chortles continued once Laurence Tribe began speaking and he had to stop and wait for the chortling Senator to come to their senses.  If you felt the Senator never did, chances are you know whom we're speaking of.  The Senator who either felt the need to play Barbara Walters ("If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?") or to play Mystery Date (stated by a woman seated next to me) didn't go out on a high note.
Tribe and Kate Michelman spoke effectively.  The testimonails in favor of Alito started out resembling too many late night "It changed my life!" infomercials.  As the parade continued, the Cult of Alito became more mind numbing (one had to wonder if some "vouchers" had been mind numbed before they became mind numbing?)
So now the Senate committee's done all it probably plans to.  Use NOW's
Take Action: Call Your Senators Today  link today and remember this number 1-800-839-5276.  Delilah Boyd (A Scrivener's Lament) always displays it.  Why?  It's the toll free number for the Capitol Hill Switchboard.  Dial it, ask for the Senator you want to speak to and they'll transfer you to her or his office.  You can store the number and use it to contact the offices of House members as well. Or you can just remember Delilah's got it posted at her site and visit A Scriverner's Lament not just for her humor and keen observations (noted in the year-in-review) but also for the solid information she hooks you up with.
Brad notes Ellen Goodman's "Is Roe v. Wade Already Collapsing?" (Boston Globe via Common Dreams):

To know what's at stake in the Supreme Court confirmation hearings, it's best to travel 1,200 miles west from the paneled Senate room to a small nondescript clinic in a Great Plains state.
It's best to turn from the blue-and-white charts brandished by senators to the parking lot filled with cars from places as far away as Rapid City or even Wyoming. It's best to turn from the buzz about precedents and privacy to the quiet of a waiting room.
Here, late in the afternoon, the clinic is still full. There's a soldier who will make a 700-mile round trip from the western part of the state. There's a teenager slouching beside a tense mother. There's a rancher, a mother of two high-schoolers and pregnant after having an IUD removed.
This is the only clinic in the state and this is the only day in the week when a woman can get an abortion in South Dakota. Today, they'll be treated by one of four doctors flown in from Minneapolis because it's impossible to recruit locally. Today's doctor is Miriam McCreary, a mother of four and grandmother of nine, who graduated from medical school in 1958. At 70, she still knows ''how desperate women are to end their pregnancies."
One clinic, one day, one doctor. This is what it's like in South Dakota right now under Roe v. Wade. It's also like this in North Dakota and Mississippi, and not very different in Arkansas or a dozen other states.
Antiabortion lobbyists here boast that South Dakota is the legislative laboratory for testing and imposing state restrictions. Last year, five new restrictions passed, including one, now being challenged, to force doctors to recite a state-written speech saying that abortion ends the life of ''a whole, separate, unique living human being." This year, the Legislature, which just opened its 35-day session, is being pressed by a state task force to add more mis-informed consent, more delays, more expensive barriers.
It goes without saying that South Dakota is one of seven states with a ''trigger law" ready to ban abortion if Roe is overturned. But something else requires saying: It's possible to add so many burdens onto the back of Roe that it collapses without ever being overturned.
And back to the issue of why the Bully Boy needs someone like Alito on the Court to beging with, Mia notes Jennifer Van Bergen's "Why the Bush Doctrine Violates the Constitution" (CounterPunch):
Bush has used presidential "signing statements" - statements issued by the President upon signing a bill into law -- to expand his power. Each of his signing statements says that he will interpret the law in question "in a manner consistent with his constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch."
Presidential signing statements have gotten very little media attention. They are, however, highly important documents that define how the President interprets the laws he signs. Presidents use such statements to protects the prerogative of their office and ensure control over the executive branch functions.
Presidents also -- since Reagan -- have used such statements to create a kind of alternative legislative history. Attorney General Ed Meese explained in 1986 that:
To make sure that the President's own understanding of what's in a bill is the same . . . is given consideration at the time of statutory construction later on by a court,
we have now arranged with West Publishing Company that the presidential statement on the signing of a bill will accompany the legislative history from Congress so that all can be available to the court for future construction of what that statute really means.
The alternative legislative history would, according to Dr. Christopher S. Kelley, professor of political science at the Miami University at Oxford, Ohio, "contain certain policy or principles that the administration had lost in its negotiations" with Congress.
The Supreme Court has paid close attention to presidential signing statements. Indeed, in two important decisions -- the Chadha and Bowsher decisions - the Court relied in part on president signing statements in interpreting laws. Other federal courts, sources show, have taken note of them too.
Okay, thank you to ___ for allowing me to dictate the DN! entries this week.  I'll be catching a flight soon.  I do intend for us to have at least one additional entry today, possibly two.  Thanks to Gina and Krista for their great work on the round-robin this week, all week.
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