Friday, January 20, 2006

Democracy Now: Micah Garen; BuzzFlash, NOW, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Bush Commission

From the Feminist Wire:

More Senators Announce Opposition to Alito

More Senators have announced their opposition to Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court. Encouragingly, no additional Democrats have announced support for Alito since Ben Nelson (NE). Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), the Democratic Whip, announced his opposition to a packed auditorium at Northwestern University School of Law. "In the record, the writings, the words, and the life of Samuel Alito, I searched for evidence of his caring heart -- evidence that for the next two or three decades he would use his position on the Supreme Court to enlarge our freedom, protect our privacy, and respect the delicate balance of power and responsibility our Constitution creates," said Senator Durbin. "At the end of the day, at this historic moment, I cannot say with confidence that Samuel Alito meets that test."

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), in announcing his opposition, said, "Based on his record, I am gravely concerned that Judge Alito does not believe the Congress has the authority to protect the fundamental rights of all Americans."

Other Senators who have announced publicly their opposition to Alito include Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (the Ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (the only woman on the Judiciary Committee), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Ken Salazar (D-CO), and Max Baucus (D-MT). Senators Leahy, Baucus, and Salazar all voted for John Roberts in September.

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: Harkin statement 1/19/06; Durbin statement 1/19/06; Feminist Majority
This is a do-able if we stay focused. Susan sent the above in and said everyone should "Keep fighting and keep the hope."
Currently airing on some stations:

Pacifica is airing a special broadcast of the John Conyers' (Dem. MI) hearings on the surveillance of US citizens
11:00 AM WBAI (airing now)
KPFK (starts at eleven a.m., Pacific Time)
KPFA starts at noon (Pacific time)

These are the John Conyers hearings into the NSA/Bully Boy spying. Remember you can listen online and that includes at the main page for Pacifica.

Will you get it live on NPR? Stop! You're making me laugh. (And if you listen to a Pacifica station that's not noted, my apologies, but I'm going by the e-mails that have come in. And KPFA listeners asked that it be noted Larry Bensky was anchoring the coverage.)

Nepalese Monarchy Cracks Down Opposition Ahead of Rally
In Nepal, authorities have carried out a broad crackdown against opponents of the royalist government. On Thursday, dozens of activists and politicians were arrested and phone lines cut off in advance of a banned rally against King Gyanendra in the capitol of Kathmandu. The rally, organized by a coalition of the country's seven main political parties, was to demand the restoration of democracy to the country nearly one year after the king seized complete control last February. Protests against the monarchy have been growing in strength. Last week, close to 100,000 people demonstrated in the southeastern town of Janakpur.

ACLU Files Lawsuits Over Police Measures At Bush Inauguration
In Washington, D.C., the American Civil Liberties Union has filed three lawsuits against the district over police tactics during last year's presidential inauguration. The ACLU alleges D.C. police made several false arrests and indiscriminately used pepper spray against people protesting the inauguration of President Bush. Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the D.C. branch of the ACLU, said: "People who come to the nation's Capital to demonstrate, or to observe major public events, are supposed to be protected by the police, not be assaulted and arrested. "Soaking people with pepper spray is not a game as the D.C. police seem to have treated it on Inauguration Day last year."

Second Commission of Inquiry On Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration Opens Today
The second gathering of the International Commission of Inquiry On Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration will begin today in New York. The commission will look into a series of charges the Bush administration has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. The indictments were drafted at the first commission held in October. Those scheduled to testify before the commission include the former head of Abu Ghraib, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski; former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray; the entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte, and former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter.

The three items above are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Heath, Ned and Lynda. (And we'll have more on the Bush Commission in this entry.) Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for January 20, 2006

- Bin Laden Threatens US, Hints At Truce in New Message
- White House Dismisses Idea of Truce With Bin Laden

- Suicide Bomber Wounds 30 in Tel Aviv
- Police Seal Major Iraq Cities, Attack Kills 22
- Nepalese Monarchy Cracks Down on Opposition
- Gov. Commission Completes Inquiry Into Menezes Shooting
- Oklahoma Accomplice Fortier To Be Released From Prison
- 2 Workers Trapped in West Va. Coal Mine Fire
- ACLU Files Lawsuits Over Inauguration Police Measures
- Second Commission of Inquiry On Crimes Against Humanity
Committed by the Bush Administration Opens Today

Muslim Leaders in Iraq Call for Release of Kidnapped U.S. Journalist Jill Carroll as Deadline Set by Captors Expires

Nearly two weeks have passed since 28-year-old freelance journalist Jill Carroll was kidnapped on the streets of Baghdad. Her family has been pleading for her safety while calls for her release come from throughout the Muslim and Arabic world. A deadline set by her captors expires today. We speak Ayman Safadi, editor-in-chief of Jordan's Al Ghad newspaper, who once worked with Carroll. [includes rush transcript]

American Hostage: As Jill Carroll Remains Captive in Iraq, Another Kidnapped U.S. Journalist Talks About the Remarkable Battle That Won His Release

As kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll remains in captivity in Iraq, we hear the story of another American who was kidnapped in Iraq - Micah Garen. He was held for 10 days in August 2004 before being released. Garen recently published a book about his experience with his partner, Marie-Helene Carleton, who helped secure his release. It's titled "American Hostage: A Memoir of a Journalist Kidnapped in Iraq and the Remarkable Battle to Win His Release."

We'll start the highlights with BuzzFlash and "Sam Alito and the End of Constitutional Checks and Balances: The Senate Dems are About to Hang Themselves:"

Shortly after the "Supreme Court Partisan Five" stole the election for Bush in 2000, Tom Daschle struck a deal with the Texas transition team.
The deal went something like this: the Democrats in the Senate would not contest Bush's selection by the Supreme Court as President of the United States and they wouldn't filibuster his cabinet appointments. In return, the Democrats would get the right to weigh in on Supreme Court appointments and contest any that they thought were too extreme.
Daschle went on (and we remember this well, because BuzzFlash took him to task in numerous editorials) to praise Bush and his cabinet selections with such zealousness, it was revolting. BuzzFlash particularly documented Daschle's homepage in early 2001 that discussed how proud he was to attend the inauguration of the wonderful President Bush, and Daschle bragged about how he regularly consulted with Bush.
But Daschle, his staff whispered, was just playing a two-sided game. He was shoring up his support in ultra-red state South Dakota, but assuring Democrats that the Maginot Line of compromise would be the Supreme Court.
As part of the deal, Daschle didn't even force a filibuster on the Ashcroft nomination. Up until the moment of the Ashcroft confirmation vote, Daschle said he didn't know how many Dem Senators would vote against the controversial appointment, even though he was Democratic leader. Heck, even Russell Feingold voted for Ashcroft in the Judiciary Committee, saying that he took Ashcroft at his word in the hearings that he would uphold the laws of Congress and the Constitution.
So Ashcroft became Attorney General, and we were told that the Dems would hold the line at the Supreme Court. And then vote after vote, we were told, the Dems would hold their powder until a Supreme Court nominee came up.
And then one Supreme Court nominee came up, and the Dems held their powder. And then another Supreme Court nominee came up, Sam Alito, who threatens the very viability of Congress, and the Dems are going to hold their powder again.
Daschle is long gone, the victim of unrelenting Republican attacks in the 2004 election, including a dirty tricks web operation by the infamous Jeff Gannon. He finally fell off his tightrope act that saw him running to be in photos with Bush and then running back to the Senate to criticize the White House, and then running to apologize for his criticism.

Tom noted that and wanted to note a BuzzFlash premium as well, Danny Schechter's The Death of Media: And the Fight to Save Democracy. ($14.50) Tom also added that BuzzFlash editorials should replace the ones the New York Times runs.

I'll note that in a world of commentary on Alito (well, maybe not a world, members have complained that there's been little commentary post-hearings), BuzzFlash is one of the few that members have highlighted who called Dianne Feinstein out. I have no idea (to answer the most asked question in e-mails this week) why Feinstein got a pass but she didn't from BuzzFlash.

And she's not getting a pass from voters. Today, at her San Francisco office, eleven this morning, there will be a protest demanding that she back a filibuster on Alito. (That's at One Post Street, Suite 2450.)

There will be a gina & krista round-robin Saturday and Sunday. Gina and Krista are doing this every day through the 24th. The action that everyone is pouring into this effort (not just people in our community) is demonstrating that we're not going to take pats on the heads and "We know best." I think this summer (the summer of protest) we saw the spirit leading up to the 2004 election come back to life.

Sam notes a "strong article," Elizabeth Schulte's "Abortion Before Roe" (CounterPunch):

Part of the right wing's offensive on abortion has been ideological--to shift the terms of the debate to where abortion is once again considered shameful.
"That's the purpose of a lot of anti-abortion tactics--to make it shameful, so that even when it's legal, many women who are obtaining abortions are getting them in conditions where they feel extremely isolated and ashamed, and don't even know there is a long history of women like them, of every religion, every social background, getting abortions," [Leslie] Reagan said.
Meanwhile, the party that has traditionally said it stood for abortion rights--the Democrats--wants nothing to do with a real fight to defend a women's right to choose.
The job of turning back the political climate--in favor of women's right to choose what they do with their bodies, without apology--falls on our shoulders. The stories of life before legalized abortion--and the struggle that made it the law of the land--have to be told.
That's how we can begin to turn the table on the anti-abortion lies, and build the movement we need to defend abortion rights.

Same topic, Nicole notes the latest from NOW. In full, here's NOW's "NOW Urges Senate Filibuster of Alito Nomination:"

January 19, 2006
National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy today sent a letter to senators of both parties who have held themselves out as supporters of women's rights, reminding them of the danger posed by Judge Samuel Alito and asking them to wage a filibuster in opposition to his nomination.
Considering Senate Republicans' consistent record of voting in lock-step for Bush's judicial nominees, Alito likely has all 55 of those votes sewn up, but we continue to hold out hope for a rare glimpse of independence. Nonetheless, that places the responsibility for protecting women's rights squarely on the Democrats, who must rise to the occasion and use their prerogative to require sixty votes--the filibuster.
"Yes, we all know the numbers, and the reality of the imbalance of power," Gandy wrote. "But the lives, hopes, and futures of our girls and women, our hard-working families, our seniors, our children, our neighbors who face physical, mental and economic challenges, depend on you."
Gandy reminded senators of Alito's reversal of the Family and Medical Leave Act, his refusal to hold a school responsible for sexual harassment, and his memorandum mapping out the overturn of Roe v. Wade.
"Your commitment to women's rights is hollow if you will not fight to preserve them," Gandy wrote to senators. "NOW, with our legions of everyday supporters who are the 'foot soldiers' in our fight to protect our democracy and basic rights, finds just about ALL of Judge Alito's record, writings, decisions and remarks 'unsettling.' We believe that this nomination and its threat to privacy and autonomy and decency and respect for all of us is cause for a declaration of 'extraordinary circumstances' and a Senate filibuster."
The Supreme Court's opinion in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England gives women's rights supporters even greater reason to believe that Samuel Alito is the wrong justice for a court whose mission is to preserve fundamental constitutional rights and liberties.
Gandy responded to that decision: "Yesterday the Supreme Court sidestepped a substantive decision in Ayotte, yet we know that the issue of abortion exceptions to preserve the woman's health will come back to the Court. If Samuel Alito is on that Court, we have every reason to believe that he will tip the balance against clear protection for our lives and health. The looming threat of this confirmation is terrifying."

Get active. Stay active. Work your own circles of friends and family this weekend.

Bonita steers us to Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Toward a Sensible Immigration Policy" (Editor's Cut, The Nation):

A new report by the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy attempts to turn the conversation on its head with a well-documented report arguing that protecting immigrants' rights in the workplace benefits all middle-class and aspiring middle-class Americans.
Drawing on a broad range of empirical studies and economic analyses, the report makes the case that it is not undocumented immigrants' presence in the US labor market that harms American workers, but rather it is the immigrants' disempowerment in the workplace, stemming from employers' ability to threaten deportation, that is a danger to US workers. "When immigrants lack rights in the workplace," the report contends, "labor standards are driven down, and all working people have less opportunity to enter or remain part of the middle class. So a pro-middle class immigration policy must guarantee immigrants full labor rights and make sure that employers cannot use deportation as a coercive tool in the labor market" to drive down the wages of all workers.

Finally . . . Bush Commission? Starting this evening in NYC. As Ruth noted last week:

The Bush Commission . . . will be holding a tribunal in New York City from January twentieth to the twenty-third. The first day of the hearing will take place at The Riverside Church on 123 Riverside Drive and will begin at 5:00 pm. The second day will take place at the same location and begin at 10:00 am. The final day, Sunday, the hearings will move to the Law School at Columbia University and will begin at 1:00 pm. More information can be found online at Bush Commission and also by calling (212) 941- 8086. Also at the Bush Commission website, you can find information on the October 2005 hearings including audio and videos you can watch online as well as text excerpts.

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