Monday, January 23, 2006

Democracy Now: James Petras, Anthony Fenton; Norman Solomon, Brian Conley & Isam Rashid, gatekeepers

Judiciary Committee Votes Tomorrow on Alito; Filibuster Possible, Says Durbin

Tomorrow, two days after the 33rd anniversary of Roe v Wade, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on Samuel Alito, a Supreme Court nominee who in 1985 wrote that the Constitution does not protect a woman's right to an abortion. Women's rights leaders and activists rallied last night at the Supreme Court in support of the landmark Supreme Court ruling.

"Since we last gathered to commemorate Roe v. Wade, two seats have opened up on the Supreme Court, and George W. Bush has used both opportunities to nominate judges whose records show a disdain for privacy rights and individual liberties," said Kim Gandy, president of the
National Organization for Women. "The Senate is poised to vote on confirming Samuel Alito, who would replace Sandra Day O'Connor, a justice whose vote has upheld women's rights for nearly 25 years. How quickly the fate of women's reproductive rights could turn in this nation."

Already, at least nine Senators have come out publicly and strongly against
Alito's confirmation, including four who voted in favor of confirming John Roberts as chief justice. In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), the Democratic Whip, said that a filibuster was possible. "A week ago, I would have told you it's not likely to happen," Durbin said. "As of [Wednesday], I just can't rule it out. I was surprised by the intensity of feeling of some of my colleagues. It's a matter of counting. We have 45 Democrats, counting [Vermont independent] Jim Jeffords, on our side. We could sustain a filibuster if 41 Senators ... are willing to stand and fight."

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; NOW statement 1/22/06; Chicago Sun-Times 1/20/06
Lily noted the above from the Feminist Wire. It's coming down to the wire. Stay active. Stay on this. Call, fax, make appointments, be heard.

The next three items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Tori, Brandon and Miguel:

Rep. Conyers Questions Telecoms Over Domestic Spying
The ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee has asked 20 telephone and Internet companies whether they have allowed the federal government to eavesdrop on their customer's communications. Congressman John Conyers of Michigan sent the letters to Microsoft, AT&T, BellSouth, Verizon, EarthLink, Google and a dozen other companies. Telecom experts say the National Security Agency may have gotten permission from phone companies to gain access to so-called switches, high-powered computers into which phone traffic flows and is redirected. Last month President Bush admitted he ordered the NSA to conduct domestic spy operations without getting legally required court warrants. Meanwhile President Bush is heading to Kansas today to launch a week-long series of speeches defending the domestic spying. He plans to visit the NSA headquarters in Maryland on Wednesday.

U.S. Criticized For Downplaying Threat Of Radical Right
Last year federal investigators told a Senate committee that environmental and animal groups like ELF and ALF represented the nation's leading domestic terror threat. The Southern Poverty Law Center however recently criticized the federal government for underestimating the threat posed by violent right-wing organizations. According to the Center, the radical right has plotted to carry out at least 60 terrorist plots inside the United States since the Oklahoma City Bombing. This includes plans to bomb or burn government buildings, mosques, synagogues and abortion clinics, plans to assassinate government officials and civil rights leaders and efforts to amass chemical and biological weapons arsenals.

Halliburton Accused of Exposing U.S. Troops to Contaminated Water
In news on Iraq -- former workers at Halliburton have accused the company of exposing troops and civilians at a U.S. military base in Iraq to contaminated water. One Halliburton official admitted in an internal memo from July that the level of contamination was twice the normal contamination of untreated water from the Euphrates River.

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

Headlines for January 23, 2006

- Evo Morales Sworn in As Bolivian President
- Rep. Conyers Questions Telecoms Over Domestic Spying
- U.S. Funnels $2M to Palestinian Authority To Help Defeat Hamas
- 2 Miners Die In West Virginia Mine Fire
- New York Times Warns Against Alito's 'Radical' Views
- Man Linked to Oklahoma City Bombing Released From Jail
- UN Cancels Talk By Pakistani Rights Activist Mukhtar Mai
- Murder Charges Dropped Against Haitian Priest Jean-Juste
- Army Interrogator Convicted For Killing Jailed Iraqi
- Ex-Pentagon Analyst Faces 12 Years In Jail in AIPAC Spy Case

Evo Morales Sworn in as Bolivia's First Indigenous President, Hails Election as End of "Colonial and Neo-Liberal Era"

In Bolivia, the country's first-ever indigenous president -- Evo Morales -- was sworn in on Sunday. He focused his nearly two-hour inaugural address on bringing justice to the country's indigenous majority and reaffirmed his pledge to nationalize the country's vast natural gas reserves. We speak with author and journalist James Petras.

U.S. Gvt. Channels Millions Through National Endowment for Democracy to Fund Anti-Lavalas Groups in Haiti

We take a look at Haiti, which is preparing for upcoming national elections. Independent Canadian journalist, Anthony Fenton, joins us to discuss the National Endowment for Democracy - the US government-funded group - that is pouring millions of dollars into trying to influence Haiti's political future.

We'll start off the highlights with Norman Solomon's "Classified Leaks and Journalists" (CounterPunch):

Whoever spilled the beans about the NSA's domestic spying did not endanger U.S. national security any more than Daniel Ellsberg did when he leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press 35 years ago. In both cases, the leaks endangered official mendacity and served the interests of democratic accountability.
But the president's defenders want to divert outrage, away from the domestic snooping and toward the leaking that revealed the snooping. So, McConnell declared that "the national security was not endangered" by the Plame leak -- and he added that the probe of the NSA leak is "a much more important investigation and should go forward."
Bush loyalists (or is that royalists?) are correct that the NSA leak is of enormous importance, but not for the reasons they claim. In truth, U.S. citizens have a profound right to know about a program that fundamentally jeopardizes civil liberties.
But protracted overblown horror at disclosure of Plame's identity has made it easier for the Bush administration to now set off on a witch hunt -- not only against whistleblowers in government but also potentially against journalists.
True, the "outing" of Plame was a sordid act of political payback against her husband, a diplomat who had criticized the Bush administration for false claims related to weapons of mass destruction and Iraq. But that doesn't justify poking holes in protection of confidentiality for journalists' sources.
Some customary defenders of press freedom were not noticeably bothered by the jailing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller in the Plame leak investigation; some even applauded her incarceration. A factor was animosity that Miller earned due to her prewar record of reporting false claims about Iraqi WMDs as if they were highly credible. But the political precedent set by putting Miller in jail is likely to make it more difficult to protect other journalists, who could be swept up in the investigation of the NSA leak.
One person's whistleblower is another's score settler or traitor. And efforts to draw sharp distinctions -- between virtuous and nefarious leaks -- is fraught with subjectivity. The motivations of leakers, while important for journalists and the public to understand, should not determine whether a legal shield for confidentiality remains in place.

Jess found this in the e-mails at the public account and wanted to note to the visitor who asked if "you feel bad or at least different now [. . .] You cheered Judith Miller going to jail!" Jess feels "someone needs a reply."

Who is "you"? Presumably it's "C.I." which would be me. It may be Jess or Ava since they're known to read the e-mails. (As do Shirley and Martha in a crunch. Thank you to all.) At The Third Estate Sunday Review (which I help out at, am part of, whatever), we advocated early on for the paper to do it's job and get to the bottom of the story long before Miller went to jail. We were even willing to table criticism if they'd fight to get the story (the outing of Valerie Plame).

So that takes care of anything Jess, Ava and myself could have written jointly.

As for me and what I've written here, I was very vocal that Judith Miller should not give up her source. While she was serving, I didn't crack one Miller joke (not an easy thing). You're confused about what you read. There were very few people speaking out on the topic in any manner other than, "She should tell." Among the few I'm aware of outside this community were John R. MacArtuher (Harper's) and Ron (Why Are We Back In Iraq?). So it may be an easy thing to be confused by; however, you are mistaken if "you" means either The Third Estate Sunday Review or The Common Ills.

If "you" means the community as a whole, it's a diverse group of people and there were some who felt Miller needed to protect a source due to the principle and some who felt that she didn't. FAIR made the strongest argument, my opinion, on why Miller should testify. While noting that I disagreed, we did note their position. And that postion wasn't one of "Oh I hate Judy! I hope she goes to jail! I hope she rots there!"
It went to the heart of how the press can be manipulated and what trust is implied and what trust is broken.

Maybe the visitor's "you" means everyone online who is left? Or left of center? I'm not responsible for everyone. As Tracy Chapman sings, "I'll save my soul, save myself."

Dominick e-mails to note "Osama plays Alanis, Bully Boy pretends to be a man" as well as to note Brian Conley and Isam Rashid's "Iraq: Destruction Easier Than Reconstruction" (IPS). From Conley and Rashid's article:

While politicians deliberate over Iraq's future, Iraqis are dealing with the reality of the present. They are looking at the debris of a country where reconstruction has come to a standstill.
They are also looking at a situation in which the capital of the oil-rich country has been stricken recently by a dire shortage of gas and kerosene.
Iraqis in Baghdad had been receiving 12 to 13 hours of electricity a day on average over recent months. Over the past few weeks they say supply has fallen to just a few hours a day.
"We have no services at all," Usama Asa'ad, a 31 year-old mechanic told IPS. "Our electricity is on only one or two hours a day."
Many Iraqis thought the United States would improve their situation when the occupation began in April 2003, but those expectations are long over. Iraqis complain that the situation in Baghdad now is worse than it ever was under Saddam.
Electricity supply is inconsistent, and sometimes there is no water for a week or more at a time. After the recent increase in petroleum prices mandated by the International Monetary Fund, the situation has become far more difficult for Iraqis.
"The petrol price became three times more than before, and this makes everything in the market more expensive," said Abdul Sattar, waiting in a queue at one of the petrol stations in Baghdad. "I've been waiting for six hours in this queue and I'm not even sure whether I will get petrol. Yesterday I waited for seven hours but I didn't get anything. The petrol station isn't open at night because there is no security."
Iraqis continue to blame the United States and the occupation for the petrol shortages and the lack of security. President George W. Bush has declared that he would seek no more money for Iraq's reconstruction, further angering Iraqis.
"The water is not clean enough, there is no petrol for our cars, and the occupation forces intend this," said Usama Asa'ad. "They want to make all of Iraq's services for private companies, so that United States companies will take as much money from Iraq as they can."

So we're done, right? No. (By the way, this is a dictated entry.)

A number of e-mails are coming in on an article in the New York Times today (e-mails from members). The article is David Carr's "Soothe the Blog and Reap The Whirlwind." (And it actually might be better termed a column.)

Carr goes into the Wash Post problems. We don't cover the Wash Post here so we won't touch that except to say if reconstruction is slow in in areas hit by Hurricane Katrina, possibly someone might want to check out Deborah Howell's residence since it appears she's bought up all the nation's lumber to build that cross she's constructed for herself. (Co-credit for that joke goes to a reporter at the Post.)

We'll note this section from Carr because I think that's what's bothered so many:

Flaming and invective know no ideology, but there is a tendency toward seeing a growing conspiracy behind every ill-chosen word -- something once thought to be the province mainly of conservatives.

Now Carr ("a walking Docker ad" snorts one friend at CBS) works at the New York Times. He's aware, presumably, of Bill Carter (his colleague) reporting on MSNBC's cancellation of Phil Donahue's show. Is there a reason a book, one that I believe cites Carter's writing, is slammed in the Times book review section for noting the same things that Carter noted in the paper? Might readers not wonder what's going on there?

Now, at this site, we're generally supportive of Scott Shane (some e-mailers, especially from a certain paper, feel we play "favorites"). But what's with his broadsides against the entertainment industry? (I believe, for those, he uses the term "Hollywood." Makes him sound like he's hoping to bump into Lana Turner at Schwab's.) These broadsides appear in reporting that graces the main section of the paper. Tone?

And who could forget the Times' little Junior Zeller who referred to people questioning the Ohio vote in 2004 in terms that utilized the phrase "tin foil hat." Tone?

Now the Times might say, "Why, yes, but they are so far out of the mainstream!"
Gatekeeping. It's the same thing that led to expelling Gore Vidal from the paper. (Long ago, kids, we're not talking about this new century we're in.) And speaking of Vidal . . .

As long as Carr's going to write of invective, he might want to note this sentence:

The editor of The Weekly Standard, William Kristol, waves the flag for the right, while Gore Vidal shakes his pompoms for the left, invoking American amnesia.

"Vidal shakes his pompoms for the left"? Can anyone explain that? One gets the flag and the other gets "pompoms"? I'd love to think it had nothing to do with the need to smear Vidal. But that's been Times' practice for many decades now, hasn't it? (The "pompoms" quote is from Manohla Dargis's "Casting a Harshly Critical Eye on the Business of Warfare in America" which ran in the Times last Friday.)

And shall we talk about that? No. Of course we don't talk about that. We never talk about that.

So let's look at the word "pompoms." Making fun of a gay man? Making sport of their sexual orientation? Easy chuckle with a stereotype?

Anyone at the paper of record want to explain that? Want to touch on that?

Didn't think so. And here's another question, how does that make in into a paper supposedly concerned about tone?

Because the Times doesn't care about tone. Not when it's time to smear and attack. (Ask Oliver Stone.) And so Vidal, who is gay, can get "pompoms" and no one at the paper raises an eyebrow -- let alone a complaint.

It's funny that a WWII veteran is given "pompoms" and a chicken hawk (who wants others to serve) gets to wave "the flag." But when you're aware of the Times' hostility to Vidal (hardly a secret after all these years), it's not that surprising.

But we don't talk about that. We're supposed to pretend that the mainstream media never does anything wrong intentionally. And certainly there's never malice involved (because malice would make certain articles actionable). The Times saved it's rear by becoming a "gatekeeper." It was supposed to clamp down on the zeal and the energy. It's lived up to that promise year after year, decade after decade.

Dargis can use "pompoms" to mock a man whom the paper disagrees with, a man who happens to be gay. Dargis can write whatever she wants. But let's not pretend that the paper of record is practicing "objectivity" or "fairness" in "tone."

Reading the article two things stand out.

1) "Is Carr going to be the one to talk about what really happened last summer?" (This has nothing to do with anything that happened at the New York Times or to Carr.)
It certainly seems that way but a number of us who know about that "lost weekend" think Carr was just having a little fun dropping a hint to needle someone.

2) Tone! Tone! Tone!

"Even . . . the left!" It's a choked whisper. (I don't really mind Carr's writing, FYI, I actually enjoy it. Maybe I find the "land of dockers" exotic?)

That's all this is about. Carr's riding the wave of what everyone is talking about. (Not an insult, that's what most columnists do.)

The mainstream media feels it's under attack. Now they didn't give a damn when it was the right-wing. In fact, they were happy to make nice then. But apparently, an active left is just too much for them. So out come The New Republicans offering lectures. Why? I don't know. No one buys The New Republican and no one bought the book by the main scold. (Gee, maybe soccer doesn't explain the whole world? You think?) Somehow he thinks someone cares what he says.

Those who can't do anything spread out their own failure? That seems to be the operating principal on the "tone" argument.

Another gatekeeping principle seems to be "what we don't talk about."

And, time permitting, we'll talk about that tonight.

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