Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Democracy Now: NSA whistle blower Russell Tice, John Perkins; Katrinva vanden Heuvel, Ruth Conniff, Cindy Sheehan and Grace Lee Boggs & others

Report: AGs Held Up Parts of Spy Program in 2004
Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting a top Justice Department official held up approval of the secret spy program over concerns about its legality and oversight In March 2004, acting Attorney General James Comey refused to sign on to the program's continued use. Comey was serving in place of then-Attorney General John Aschroft while Ashcroft was hospitalized. Comey's refusal prompted senior Presidential aides Andrew Card and Alberto Gonzales to visit Aschroft in his hospital room to grant the approval. The Times reports Ashcroft expressed reluctance to sign off on the program. It is unclear if he eventually relented. Both Ashcroft and Comey's concerns appear to have led to a temporary suspension of parts of the program for several months, the Times says.

Bush Support Dropping Among Armed Forces
Meanwhile, a new poll by the magazine group Military Times shows support for President Bush among US armed forces has fallen over ten percent in the last year. The survey found support for Bush's overall policies at 60 percent, down from 71 percent. Support for the Iraq war for is at 54 percent - down from 63 percent. The Times says the poll found "diminished optimism that US goals in Iraq can be accomplished, and a somewhat smaller drop in support for the decision to go to war in 2003."

US Air Strike Kills 14 Civilians in Iraq
In Iraq, Reuters is reporting a U.S. air strike has killed 14 members of one Iraqi family in the northern town of Baiji. An Iraqi military spokesperson said the air raid damaged an additional four houses, injuring at least three other people.

Turkey Denies Reports US Seeks Bases To Strike Iran
In Turkey, the government is denying newspaper reports the United States has asked to use local military bases for possible attacks on neighboring Iran. Several newspapers have reported high-level U.S. officials have visited Turkey in recent months to prepare from Turkish-based strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities. The officials have included the heads of both the CIA and FBI. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is also expected to visit the country in the coming weeks. In a statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said the reports have: "no connection with reality."

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Rob, Lewis, Brenda and Gina. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for January 3, 2006

- Justice Dept. Investigates NSA Spy Leak
- Report: AGs Held Up Parts of Spy Program in 2004
- US Air Strike Kills 14 Civilians in Iraq
- Four Demonstrators Killed in Oil-Cost Protest Near Kirkuk
- Bush Support Dropping Among Armed Forces
- Egypt To Deport Over 600 Sudanese After Police Kill 30 Protesters

- Haiti Elections Postponed For Fourth Time

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

National Security Agency Whistleblower Warns Domestic Spying Program Is Sign the U.S. is Decaying Into a "Police State"

Former NSA intelligence agent Russell Tice condemns reports that the Agency has been engaged in eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without court warrants. Tice has volunteered to testify before Congress about illegal black ops programs at the NSA. Tice said, "The freedom of the American people cannot be protected when our constitutional liberties are ignored and our nation has decayed into a police state." [includes rush transcript]

Former "Economic Hit Man" John Perkins on "The First Truly Global Empire" and its Impact on Latin America

We speak with the author of "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" about his former work going into various countries to create a secret empire through economics after being recruited by the National Security Agency. Perkins discusses the policy in the context of the recent WTO meetings, the NYC transit strikes, and U.S. economic interventions in Latin America. [includes rush transcript]

A few people e-mailed to say they spent the morning catching up, some since Friday. Which isn't surprising since some members rely either solely or mainly on computers at work. But I'm going to use that topic as an opportuntity to note something. There's a problem re: Blogger/Blogspot with the site. "Publishing" an entry (getting it on the site after it's written and thanks to one member who explained in an e-mail that he had no idea what "publishing" meant when it pops up here) used to take a few minutes, then ten minutes. In the last two days, the process has taken forty to sixty minutes.

We have a "broken pipe" -- Call the plumbers! What's a "broken pipe"? I have no idea. But that's an error message that's popped up repeatedly. Hopefully, that's in the process of being fixed. However, one thing we may have to do is go from weekly archiving to monthly. "Archiving" (simplest explanation) is the listing of previous entries. You can find the archives on the left, under the permalinks and above the photo that takes you to Danny Schechter's site.

I would prefer not to go to monthly archive for the reason that I can usually pin something in an entry down within a week and, if someone refs an entry or I do myself, it's easy to find it by going to the week I'm pretty sure it appeared. Moving to monthly would make that more difficult.

In addition, it would make the page load more slowly. For many, including myself, it probably won't but for those using older computers, that will probably be the case. The biggest headache, if the change takes place, would be for those who check only on work computers because they're "Monday" (their return to work whether it's a Monday or another day) usually means they try to catch up on what's been posted since they last checked on their "Friday."

If a change would effect you, please weigh in and we'll see what else we can do. That might mean noting some of the previous entries or some other thing we can think up. But the change in archiving -- going from weekly to monthly -- is very likely and I'd like to have your input on it now.

We switched from daily archiving to weekly archiving with no problems for members (or none that got reported via e-mail). We did that because Blogger said the size was too great and there would continue to be problems when publishing that could be fixed if we went to weekly archives. They've yet to say the same about weekly to monthly but I'm expecting that message to come shortly. So if it would effect you, please e-mail so we can figure out how to address the change (that is probably coming).

Now we're done that with that and moving on to highlights. We're going with four and they address a number of things that are currently going in. The last one notes an upcoming holiday and asks for you to think about how we honor on that holilday.

First up we have Tracey's highlight -- Katrina vanden Heuvel's "The I-Word is Gaining Ground -- UPDATED" (Editor's Cut, The Nation):

In 1998, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, currently under indictment on corruption charges, proclaimed: "This nation sits at a crossroads. One direction points to the higher road of the rule of law...The other road is the path of least resistance" in which "we pitch the law completely overboard when the mood fits us...[and] close our eyes to the potential lawbreaking...and tear an unfixable hole in our legal system." That arbiter of moral politics was incensed about the possibility of Bill Clinton escaping unpunished for his "crimes."
Fast forward to December 2005. Not one official in the entire Bush Administration has been fired or indicted, not to mention impeached, for the shedding of American blood in Iraq or for the shredding of our Constitution at home. As Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter put it--hours after the New York Times reported that Bush had authorized NSA wiretapping of US citizens without judicial warrants--this President has committed a real transgression that "goes beyond sex, corruption and political intrigue to big issues like security versus liberty and the reasonable bounds of presidential power."
In the last months, several organizations, including AfterDowningStreet, Impeach Central and ImpeachPAC.org, have formed to urge Bush's impeachment. But until very recently, their views were virtually absent in the so-called "liberal" MSM, and could only be found on the Internet and in street protests.
But the times they are a' changin'. The I-word has moved from the marginal to the mainstream--although columnists like Charles "torture-is-fine-by-me" Krauthammer would like us to believe that "only the most brazen and reckless and partisan" could support the idea. In fact, as Michelle Goldberg reports in Salon, "in the past few days, impeachment "has become a topic of considered discussion among constitutional scholars and experts (including a few Republicans), former intelligence officers, and even a few politicians." Even a moderately liberal columnist like Newsweek's Alter sounds like The Nation, observing: "We're seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator."

Will impeachment be a possibility in 2006? (Or 2007, if there's a shift in the power of one or both Houses in the 2006 mid-term elections?) We can hope. (And before the e-mails come in, yes Tracey is Ruth's granddaughter.) (I think everyone's aware of that by now but they like the added link for Ruth. Which is fine.)

Ned has been sharing his highlight in his office and picked the excerpt because he was surprised that most people had not heard anything about what goes on at Shannon Airport in Ireland. He says to thank "Dominick and any other member who made a point repeatedly this spring and summer to highlight the issue of the torture jets refueling." From Cindy Sheehan's "Friends Don't Let Friends Commit War Crimes" (Common Dreams):

In Ireland, I met with that country's equivalent of Condi Rice, the dignified Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern. As a matter of fact, he had just met with the "steely" Condi the week before. Incredibly, he accepted assurances from her that the CIA airplanes (up to 60 documented by peace activists) that are landing in Shannon airport are not transporting prisoners for extraordinary rendition ( i.e., torture). That's like accepting a pirate's assurance that he's not going to steal your boat as he's boarding it with a drawn sword! I tried to impress on Mr. Ahern that the leaders of my government are known pathological liars, and can't be believed on this or anything. The torture planes are landing on Irish soil, so Ireland should inspect them for human rights violations. If Condi and her "husband" George aren't doing anything wrong, they have nothing to be concerned with.
Ireland declined to send troops as part of the CoaIition of the Killing, but they do allow US planes to re-fuel at Shannon airport (Mr. Ahern: We did it during Vietnam!). I delivered a stack of petitions to Mr. Ahern of 10,000 signatures from pro-peace, anti-killing citizens of Ireland demanding that their government stop allowing my government to land torture planes and troop transport planes at Shannon airport. My own son, Casey, went through Shannon. I urged Mr. Ahern to please make the US refuel their planes elsewhere. The occupation of Iraq is illegal by most standards and immoral by all standards. Being accomplices to war crimes makes one culpable for these war crimes. I can say he listened and I believe he genuinely wants to do what's right for Ireland. The people of Ireland need to keep the pressure on their government to act rationally and responsibly in this matter.
Scotland is the birth place of impeachment and also the birthplace of both of my great-grandmas. I met with many Scottish MPs who are very anti-war and anti-Bush and anti-Blair. They are doing all they can to end the Scottish involvement in the war. The First Minister wouldn't meet with me. But my friend, Rose Gentle, has been trying to meet with him since her son, Gordon, was tragically killed in Iraq. When leaders of countries are co-conspirators in lies and corruption and don't even have the courage or integrity to meet with the people whose lives their unpunished felonies have damaged beyond full repair, that is a scandal.
From the peace campaign of Sheehan to the horror of Alito, Lloyd notes Ruth Conniff's "Alito and Abuse of Power" (Ruth Conniff's Online Column, The Progressive):
The New York Times reported on Monday that Democrats are unlikely to filibuster Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, whose hearings begin next week. Democrats, while they generally oppose Alito, want to keep their powder dry and focus their efforts on opposing President Bush on other issues, including the Iraq War. One filibuster--over the Patriot Act--is enough for now. And, of course, there are the hearings coming up on the President's secret, NSA spying program--the bombshell revelation of the recently ended Congressional session.
It's understandable that the Democrats, as a minority in Congress, feel they need to pick their battles. But giving Alito a pass, while trying to make the case that President Bush has abused his executive powers, is a mistake. Alito's nomination is part of the Bush Administration's assault on the balance of powers that act as a check on the executive branch. Members of Congress and Senators on the Judiciary Committee--Republicans and Democrats alike--should take the opportunity of this nomination to ask questions about Alito's, and the President's, respect for our system of checks and balances, and to point out the pattern of abuse of executive authority that is seriously undermining Americans' privacy, freedom from overzealous law enforcement, and basic civil rights.
The ACLU has produced a report on Alito's record that speaks directly to these issues. In addition to his partisan conservatism and his opposition to reproductive rights, there is Alito's troubling record on the Fourth Amendment and his opposition to checks on both law enforcement and executive power.
Lloyd notes in his e-mail that he wishes he had remembered to cite Ruth Conniff as a voice that speaks to him in addition to Matthew Rothschild. Lloyd's not alone in thinking of voices after the year-in-review went up. Again, the positive of that is that we're lucky to have so many voices on the left that speak to us. The converse would be countless e-mails all citing the same voice. If you forgot someone or meant to note someone in the year-in-review, you can mention that when you next highlight them and we'll note in that entry. (We won't go back into the year-in-review and add to it, sorry. I explained why not -- and Lloyd didn't ask for that, just to be clear -- in "Other Items" this morning and then deleted that section. I'll go into it tonight, time permitting.)
Our next highlight has been e-mailed four times in the last month. With each one (Liang, Charlie, Brad and Jonah), I checked to make sure it was okay to wait until the new year on this. They agreed that with everything else going on, this piece on MLK might get lost. My hope is to also note this either the day before or day of MLK Day this month. (Feel free to remind me because I'll probably forget.) So here's "Institute for Democratic Renewal: A fresh approach to the MLK Holiday: NO MORE BUSINESS AS USUAL" (Michigan Citizen Daily):

Every January most of us routinely honor Dr. King's life and work. We attend local celebrations or maybe watch films about his life or the civil rights movement and then return to our daily activities of work, raising our families, and tending to the business of living our lives.

On this year's MLK Day -- Jan. 16, 2006 -- let's do something different to honor the occasion.

Dec. 1, 2005, marked the 50th anniversary of the start of the Montgomery Bus Boycott,the movement that propelled Dr. King into the national spotlight. As the 381 day boycott ended, Dr. King asked the question "Where do we go from here--how do we begin to foster and create beloved community?"

As preparations for the 2006 King holiday get underway, is it possible to use this time to explore where we go from here in light of the horrific events of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, the mounting death toll of the Iraq war, the catastrophic dropout and incarceration rates of Black youth in our inner cities, and the passing of Rosa Parks, the mother of the Civil Rights Movement, in addition to the loss of many other movement icons?

We might begin by carefully reviewing the last three years of Dr. King's life. Especially in his 1967 Riverside Church speech, "Beyond Vietnam: Breaking the Silence," Dr. King not only explained why he opposed the war in Vietnam; he called the world's attention to the poverty, despair and powerlessness in our urban ghettos and called for a radical revolution in values to reorder our priorities.

Dr. King said, "These are the times for real choices, not false ones." Given the stance he took in his speeches and writings, there is no doubt that he would now be standing with those opposing the war on Iraq.

If we honestly choose Dr. King as our guide, our values will have to be reexamined, not just from the top down but also from the bottom up, especially our excessive preoccupation with materialism and our overuse of violence of all kinds as a solution for our problems.

Credit for the above highlight is:
From "Beloved Communities: Growing Our Souls," an initiative led by Grace Lee Boggs, Shea Howell, Nelson Johnson, John D. Maguire, Kathy Sanchez, and Shirley Strong, with the support of The Institute for Democratic Renewal (Claremont, California) / Project Change (Oakland, California), a national joint antiracism venture.

A visitor e-mailed to say he enjoyed Kat's year-in-review of music. Andrew has his own site and it's entitled Bloggety Blog. On the topic of year 2005, if you missed Monday's Democracy Now!, here's the link and info for the second half of their review which aired Monday:
2005 in Review Pt. 2: Power, Politics and Resistance

Today, part two of our special look back at 2005, including the devastating Katrina hurricane, Cindy Sheehan & Camp Casey, the 60th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the political crackdown in Haiti, the Sept. 24 anti-war protest in Washington D.C., the genocide in Sudan, the death of Rosa Parks, the Israeli pullout of Gaza and much more.
Featuring the voices of:
George Bush, Scott McCellan
Alfred Ross, Nancy Northup
Ralph Neas, Debo Adegbile
Kofi Annan, Andrew Revkin
Jan Egeland, Nelson Mandela
David Miller, Jacques Rogge
Tony Blair, George Galloway
Ajmal Masroor, Dahr Jamail
Patrick Cockburn, Yanar Mohammed
Antonia Juhasz, Seth Donnelly
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Johanna Berrigan
Jan Vande Putte, Paul Tibbets
Tadatoshi Akiba, Sunao Tsuboi
Ramsey Clark, Cynthia McKinney
Edward Mortimer, Salih Booker
Roland Martin, Mahmoud Abbas
David Matar, Ali Abunimah
Peter Jennings, Stan Glantz
Lt. Gen. William Odom, Cindy Sheehan
Ann Wright, Nadia McCaffrey
Patricia Roberts, Becky Lourey
Charlie Anderson, Mimi Evans
Andrea Hackett, Ray Nagin
Bill Quigley, Tamer El-Ghobashy
Hurricane Katrina Survivors, Olivia Johnson McQueen
Henry Alexander, Damu Smith
Kanye West, Tuti Sheiban
John Hamilton, Floyd Simeon
Michael Brown, Judd Legum
Pat Robertson, Bernardo Alvarez
Chris Hedges, Hugo Chavez
Tom DeLay, Jake Bernstein
Doug Ireland, Patrick Fitzgerald
Larry Johnson, Harriet Miers
Arlen Specter, Robert Fisk
Oprah Winfrey, Rev. Jesse Jackson
Julian Bond, Beatrice Manz
Moeen Cheema, Tariq Ali
Stanley Tookie Williams, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Kevin Fagan, Donald Rumsfeld
Yousri Fouda, Jeremy Scahill
Reed Brody, Peter Kornbluh
Scott Horton, Tony Lagouranis
Gareth Peirce, Dahr Jamail
Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, Lt. Col. Barry Venable
Patrick Leahy and John Conyers.

Note: Font errors corrected.