Friday, January 06, 2006

Democracy Now: Sarah Leah Whitson, David Golove, Scott Horton; Center for Constitutional Rights, BuzzFlash, Danny Schechter, Bill Scher ...

AMY GOODMAN: It's also interesting that the head of the M.T.A., Peter Kalikow, has now said he never realized what an issue their pension demand, that the workers would have to go from giving 2% to 6% of their pay into their pension plan, would be such a lightning rod issue.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Right. Well, see, I think the big problem people don't understand is these claims of runaway pension costs are bogus, I mean, as I've been investigating them. There's no more worker benefit that can be more easily predicted for decades than a pension plan. You pay a certain amount of money, now, into a plan that will eventually be able to provide retirement 20-30 years down the line, so that it's a totally predictable expense for any company or government.
What happened, throughout the 1980s and the 1990s with the stock market booming as it was, is that companies, as well as local governments, got used to not paying anything, practically, into pension funds. They reduced their contributions, because the returns from the market were doing so well. Then comes the crash of 2000, 2001 and ’02, and suddenly, these companies now and governments are being forced to contribute more than they were in the last few years. But they got so used to not contributing virtually anything that they don't want to go back now to beginning to contribute 3% or 4% of an employee's pay into a pension fund. So they're basically trying to shift to the workers their failures in the past to properly fund these plans.
The above is from the third report on Democracy Now! today and Erika asked that we spotlight it to make sure everyone is aware of that point.  They address this and more in the third report.
Padilla Appears in Miami After Supreme Court Overturns Ruling
In this country, Pentagon detainee Jose Padilla appeared in a Miami court Thursday for after being transferred from a military prison. In 2002, Padilla was arrested on a return trip from Pakistan and declared an “enemy combatant.” Then-Attorney General John accused Padilla of involvement in “a terrorist plot to attack the United States by exploding a radioactive ‘dirty bomb.’" Padilla was only charged in November after over three years in solitary confinement on a military brig in South Carolina. None of his charges included the most serious of allegations made at the time of his arrest.
Last month, a federal appeals court refused to approve Padilla’s transfer to the Miami civilian court -- and suggested the Bush administration only made the request to thwart Padilla’s pending Supreme Court appeal. However, the Supreme Court on Wednesday overruled the lower court, clearing the way for his transfer to Miami.
Over 120 Killed in Deadliest Iraq Violence in 4 Months
In Iraq, over 120 people were killed in violence across the country Thursday. Another 200 were wounded in the bloodiest day the country has seen in four months. In Ramadi, a suicide bomber killed at least 67 people and injured more than 100 outside of a police recruitment center. Earlier, at least 44 people died in a suicide bombing at a Shiite shrine in the holy city of Karbala. And 11 U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq Thursday, including five in a roadside bombing near Karbala.
Report: Lt. Gen. Sanchez To Step Down By Year’s End
Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the American commander in Iraq during the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, will be stepping down by year’s end. One Army general told the Times General Sanchez’s departure is related to the Bush administration’s reluctance to nominate him for another position because of his link to Abu Ghraib. The general said: "It's a question of simply not being able to get by Senate confirmation," and that nominating General Sanchez for a new job would "stir up too much political bad news in an election year."
The above three items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Nick, Julia and Liang.  Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):
Headlines for January 6, 2006

- Sharon Undergoes Second Emergency Brain Surgery
- Report: US Planning Gitmo-Style Prison in Afghanistan
- Suicide Bomber Kills 10 During US Ambassador Visit
- Over 120 Killed in Deadliest Iraq Violence in 4 Months
- Report: Lt. Gen. Sanchez To Step Down By Year’s End
- Virginia Governor Orders DNA Testing on Executed Convict
- Mexico Calls For Investigation Into Border Killing
- 9th Ward Residents Confront Planned Demolitions in New Orleans
Human Rights Watch Calls on Bush to Cut Aid To Israel Over Expansion of Illegal Settlements

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was rushed to the operating room Friday morning for his second emergency surgery after a medical scan revealed fresh bleeding in the brain. We speak with Human Rights Watch, which is calling for the United States to cut back its multi-billion dollar foreign aid to Israel. [includes rush transcript]
An Imperial President? Bush Claims Right To Ignore New Law Banning Torture

Five years after President Bush joked, "If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator,” we look at the growing controversy over presidential power and how it relates to many of today’s biggest stories: the Senate ban on torture, the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, domestic surveillance and the jailing of U.S. citizens as enemy combatants. Earlier this week three influential Republicans Senators condemned Bush for claiming he has the authority to ignore a new law banning the torture of prisoners during interrogations. [includes rush transcript -partial]
Juan Gonzalez Hails the New York City Transit Strike as Success; Union Fought Off City Attempts to Redo Pension Plan

Last month, 33,000 New York City transit workers went on strike, shutting down the country's largest public transportation system for the first time in 25 years. Pension plan demands were a central issue in the negotiations. Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez discusses the results of the negotiations and how they can impact workers nationwide. [includes rush transcript]
We have various highlights (including announcements & Alito) and we'll start with Jonah's pick because it's something that hasn't got a lot of attention yet.  From
One week before military tribunal proceedings are set to commence on January 11, 2006, for young Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, his attorneys delivered a letter to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and Interim Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Karin Sham Poo.  The letter urges the United Nations to appeal to the United States government and to unilaterally condemn Omar’s trial as inconsistent with international legal protections accorded to children in armed conflict. 
In the letter (attached), Khadr's U.S. attorneys, Richard Wilson and Muneer Ahmad, professors at American University Washington College of Law request that the U.N. "fully investigate, document and denounce this [trial] development, and ask that a representative from the U.N. attend hearings of the military commissions as an observer for the protection of this child victim of armed conflict, including the first session now scheduled for January 11, 2006."
Imprisoned by the United States since the age of 15 Omar Khadr has been held under strict security conditions, often in solitary confinement, and subject to interrogation and torture despite his status as a juvenile.
Now we'll note the first Alito-based highlight which goes further than just Alito.  Eddie noted  "Thank God our current Senate Democrats weren't at Lexington and Concord!" (BuzzFlash):
If the patriots had held their powder at Lexington and Concord, this nation might still be under a monarchy. (Well, in a way we do still have King George in power, but that's another story.)
This thought comes to mind because the Democrats in the senate are now thinking of "keeping their powder dry" and letting Sam Alito, who believes in unbridled executive branch power (aka, monarchy, dictatorship, etc.) get greenlighted to a seat on the Supreme Court. Forget, for a moment, that Alito is opposed to the fundamental principles of the Democratic Party platform; Alito is opposed to democracy.
Scalito, as he is called, believes in having a Republican president violate the Constitution by simply making a statement giving his interpretation of any law passed by Congress when he signs it. According to Scalito, this Republican presidential interpretation then becomes the law, not the "intent of Congress."
The man who Bush would have join the other absolute power of the Republican executive branch supporters on the Supreme Court came up with this idea while serving in the Reagan Administration. He urged adopting the "executive branch statement of interpretation" quietly and gradually, so it wouldn't draw much press or legal attention.
Strong editorial from and we're going to go from that to the FDR years via
Lynda's highlight.  From Danny Schechter's "Has The Horse Breathed Its Last?"
Sound the bugle. May we remember that it was on this very day, the 6th of January, back in l941 that a former President, the man they called FDR, proclaimed fidelity to "four freedoms" as the cornerstone of American life. Not one. Not Two--but four. Here they are:
1.Freedom of speech and expression
2.Freedom of every person to worship God in his own way
3. Freedom from want - individual economic security
4. Freedom from fear - world disarmament to the point that wars of aggression are impossible.
Gimme four, baby. How quickly we forget or are made to forget.
Or maybe, Janis Joplin ref for Susan, a combination of the two?  One thing we shouldn't forget (or be made to) is what's happening next week.  Ruth will note this in her report this weekend; however, she pointed out today that we have some members with online access at work only.  If you're someone who'll be out of pocket until Monday, please note the following (which begins Monday morning) from
Mon., Jan. 9 through Fri., Jan. 13
The Pacifica Radio Network is bringing you the Samuel Alito Senate Hearing for nomination to the United States Supreme Court live!
Verna Avery Brown teams with Mitch Jeserich from Free Speech Radio News and Pacifica National Affairs correspondent, Larry Bensky, to bring you the controversial nomination hearing of Samuel Alito for United States Supreme Court, live.
Anchors: Larry Bensky, KPFA; Verna Avery Brown, WPFW; Mitch Jesserich, FSRN.
The schedule of hearings includes a one hour pre-show on the opening day, and an half-hour wrap-up show each evening. Live analysts will join us in the booth and via telephone throughout the hearings.
Pacifica will be bringing you live coverage (as they did during the Roberts' confirmation hearings).  That's great if you live in an area Pacifica broadcasts in, right?  Well, online access permitting, many people live in areas where Pacifica broadcasts because they provide live webcasts (as well as archived ones).  This isn't Renee and Steve yucking it up with Cokie on NPR Monday where maybe you'll get a (canned) story about the hearings that day.  This is live coverage.  No cutting to "cute" stories about a fisherman who . . . (fill in the anecdote, NPR loves their "cute" fisherman stories).  So this starts Monday (unless the hearings are postponed for some reason).  You can listen via webcast, live streaming (which you can use any day of the week, at any hour, to listen to Pacifica programming, live or archived programming).
Again, Ruth will note this in her report this weekend but she (rightly) remembered that some members won't be checking back in until Monday.  So that's a heads up.
Still on the topic of Alito, Sam steers us to "Bill at Liberal Oasis and his 'Executive Power Issue Gains Traction Before Alito Hearings' which gives a rundown of some issues going into the hearings:"
The issue of Alito's support for unchecked, unbalanced presidential power -- discussed here on Wed. -- is the issue gaining traction as we head into next week's hearings.
Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had a front page story about Alito's support of the "unitary executive" theory, which, as the paper reported, is "an expansive view of presidential powers that [Alito] and his colleagues set forth while working in ... the Reagan Justice Department."
(It is that theory which Bush cited when he claimed last week that no body could stop from mistreating detainees.) reports that Senate Dems plan to make Alito's record on presidential power a "dominant" issue next week.
Sen. Chuck Schumer led off with the issue in a sweeping speech before the Center for American Progress and the American Constitution Society on the Alito nomination.
Bonnie notes The Nation's editorial arguing "The Case Against Alito:"
With Judge Samuel Alito, the Senate Judiciary Committee faces its most consequential Supreme Court confirmation hearing in a generation. Not since Robert Bork has the Senate encountered a nominee whose long record and fully articulated views so consistently challenge decades of progress on privacy, civil rights and control of corporations. And never in memory has a single nomination so threatened to redirect the Court as Alito's, which would replace the pragmatically conservative swing-voter Sandra Day O'Connor. Alito's opening statement before the Judiciary Committee is January 9, but his true testimony consists of fifteen years of rulings on issues from abortion to school prayer to immigration. That record demonstrates that Alito is at odds with the interests of ordinary Americans.
Supreme Court nominees get, and usually deserve, much benefit of the doubt. But with Alito, the doubt is all of the nominee's making, and has only grown with revelations of his Reagan-era memos. As an ambitious Reagan Administration lawyer, he boasted in a now-famous 1985 job application of his conviction that Roe v. Wade should be overturned; opposed the historic one-person, one-vote decision of the Warren Court; and waved like a badge of honor his membership in a far-right Princeton alumni network notorious for its hostility to admitting women and African-Americans. Alito's defense of Nixon-era officials implicated in illegal wiretaps makes clear--in light of today's NSA wiretap scandal--that the Bush Administration's motives in Alito's nomination extend well beyond a token nod to social conservatives.
Nothing in Alito's hundreds of federal appeals court rulings in the years since suggests any mellowing of those fundamental commitments.
Final Alito-based highlight; however, as members who've checked their inboxes already know, next week Gina and Krista will put out a daily version of the round-robin.  This is their special coverage similar to what they did during the Roberts' confirmation hearing.  Here, at this site, the entries will be similar to during the Roberts' hearings (for the same reason).  So we will have entries up here each day but I will also be participating in roundtables Gina and Krista will be doing nightly.  The schedule for other members with sites is still to be determined.  Elaine thinks she can do every night ("provided the hearings don't cover over two weeks") and Ava and Jess are down for every night.  Gina and Krista hope to have the schedule down by this evening and, if so, we'll note it tomorrow morning here. Members not running sites will be participating as well.  If the hearings last five days, here are members who will be participating on those five evening. 
Monday: Francisco, Susan, Eli, Shirley and Martha
Tuesday: Marcia, Charlie, Keesha, Eli, Eddie, Billie, Rob, Kara, Brad, Beth, Keshawn and Liang
Wednesday: Bonnie, Eli, Joan, Maria
Thursday: Erika, Eli, Brady
Friday: Miguel, Eli, Lynda, Keesha
If the hearings end on Wednesday, the Thursday roundtable will still take place as a post-hearings discussion.  If you are a member interested in participating, contact Gina or Krista. Except for Tuesday, they're open to adding up to three members to each night.  And note that Eli's agreed to take part every night needed. And, "this just in," so have Ruth and her granddaughter Tracey.
The special round-robins will publish Monday through Friday for as long as the hearings last.  Friday's roundtable will appear the following Monday, not on Saturday.
Now for our last highlight.  Yesterday Doug asked if we would be noting MLK in some manner each day in the leadup to the 16?  Melissa likes that plan and "doing my part" steers everyone to Ida Brown's "Local MLK celebration to span four days" (Meridian Mississippi News):
During his lifetime, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged people of all races and walks of life to unite to make their community -- and America -- a better place to live.
On Jan. 16, as the country celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday, organizers of the local observance hope not only to honor King's legacy, but more importantly, to continue the pursuit of his dream.
"When you think of how persistent and dedicated the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was in his pursuit for racial harmony and equality for all people, MLK Day is such an awesome way to celebrate peace in our world," said Sharon Smith, who, as Main Street director, also serves as a liaison for the city of Meridian on the Dr. Martin Luther King Parade and Celebration Committee.
This year marks Meridian's seventh annual MLK parade and celebration. The first, held in 1999, was the fulfillment of a dream by former Meridian resident Dr. Linda Wilson-Jones. In 2004, Wilson-Jones moved to South Carolina, and the dream was continued through the efforts of a committee currently chaired by Greg Lane.
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