Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Former vice president Al Gore gave what I believe to be the most important political speech in my lifetime, and the New York Times, "the newspaper of record," did not report it. Not even excerpts. For the New York Times, it was a nonevent that a former vice president and presidential candidate, denied the presidency by one vote of the Supreme Court, challenged the Bush administration for its illegalities, rending of the Constitution and disrespect for the separation of powers. So much for "the liberal press" that right-wingers rant about. If a "liberal press" exists, the New York Times is certainly no longer a member.
The Washington Post had a short report on Gore's address at Constitution Hall, but the newspaper, if that is what it is, managed to water down the seriousness and urgency of the message that Gore brought to the country with sneers.
Gore's address is the first sign of leadership from the Democratic party in six years. This alone makes it a major news event. But not even his own party took notice. According to reports, only one Democratic senator, Dianne Feinstein (CA) was in the audience. One would have thought the entire Democratic congressional delegation would have turned out in support of Gore's challenge to Bush's extraordinary claims of power.

The above is from Paul Craig Robert's "A Challenge that Cannot be Ignored" (CounterPunch) and was noted by Brenda. Our Democracy Now! post disappeared. Thanks to Pru having a copy saved, it's back up. But I was attempting to write a column for the gina & krista round-robin that goes out tomorrow morning and to work on an entry for this site. I'll save that for later. (Probably tomorrow. It's done except for the conclusion but the "flow" has been interrupted and I don't feel like attempting to get back in touch with those emotions.)

So what have you got? A link-fest. We'll note three more items (for a total of four) that members have noted in e-mails.

Gareth notes this breaking news, Richard Norton-Taylor's "Torture flights: what No 10 knew and tried to cover up" (The Guardian):

The government is secretly trying to stifle attempts by MPs to find out what it knows about CIA "torture flights" and privately admits that people captured by British forces could have been sent illegally to interrogation centres, the Guardian can reveal. A hidden strategy aimed at suppressing a debate about rendition - the US practice of transporting detainees to secret centres where they are at risk of being tortured - is revealed in a briefing paper sent by the Foreign Office to No 10.
The document shows that the government has been aware of secret interrogation centres, despite ministers' denials. It admits that the government has no idea whether individuals seized by British troops in Iraq or Afghanistan have been sent to the secret centres.
Dated December 7 last year, the document is a note from Irfan Siddiq, of the foreign secretary's private office, to Grace Cassy in Tony Blair's office. It was obtained by the New Statesman magazine, whose latest issue is published today.
It was drawn up in response to a Downing Street request for advice "on substance and handling" of the controversy over CIA rendition flights and allegations of Britain's connivance in the practice.
"We should try to avoid getting drawn on detail", Mr Siddiq writes, "and to try to move the debate on, in as front foot a way we can, underlining all the time the strong anti-terrorist rationale for close cooperation with the US, within our legal obligations."

Polly notes Kim Sengupta's "Remember Afghanistan? Insurgents bring suicide terror to country" (The Independent):

The new Taliban are deploying tactics that have torn Iraq to shreds, and Afghanistan is seeing a surge in the previously unknown practice of suicide bombings ­ 25 in four months. This is seen as the reintroduction of al-Qa'ida into Afghanistan ­ a devastating example of how over-extending the "war on terror" into Iraq is rebounding on the West with vengeance. Tony Blair declared after the overthrow of the Taliban and the retreat of Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'ida that "this time we will not walk away" , a reference to how Afghanistan was allowed to sink into its cycle of destruction after the West had used and then abandoned the country in the Cold War against the Soviets.
President George Bush, supported by Mr Blair, the critics say, has subsequently neglected Afghanistan, toppled Saddam, and spawned " al-Qa'ida in Iraq" led by the Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. This is the reality on the ground awaiting thousands of British troops being sent in the next few months into Afghanistan ­ a redeployment which in itself is part of the disengagement plan for Iraq.
The British force will be supported by planned contributions from the Netherlands of 1,400 to add to forces already there from the US, Canada, Germany, Italy and Spain. The bulk of the American combat troops are going to withdraw to be replaced by British forces in the province of Helmand and the most dangerous of the frontier areas.
There is, however, rising apprehension that Britain will be forced to take up the vast bulk of the fighting burden. The Nato "commitment" is, however, a matter of intense debate within member countries. The Dutch deployment has been agreed by the government, but not ratified by parliament. Countries such as Italy have refused to send more troops. Francesc Vandrell, the EU's special representative to Afghanistan, warned that it would be "a heavy blow" to Europe's commitment, and Afghanistan's future, if the Dutch failed to agree their deployment.

Kansas notes Greg Palast's "NO CHILD'S BEHIND LEFT: THE TEST" ( from January 10th:

New York -- Today and tomorrow every 8-year-old in the state of New York will take a test. It's part of George Bush's No Child Left Behind program. The losers will be left behind to repeat the third grade. Try it yourself. This is from the state's actual practice test. Ready, class?
"The year 1999 was a big one for the Williams sisters. In February, Serena won her first pro singles championship. In March, the sisters met for the first time in a tournament final. Venus won. And at doubles tennis, the Williams girls could not seem to lose that year."
And here's one of the four questions:
"The story says that in 1999, the sisters could not seem to lose at doubles tennis. This probably means when they played
A two matches in one day B against each other C with two balls at once D as partners"
OK, class, do you know the answer? (By the way, I didn't cheat: there's nothing else about "doubles" in the text.)
My kids go to a New York City school in which more than half the students live below the poverty line. There is no tennis court.
There are no tennis courts in the elementary schools of Bed-Stuy or East Harlem. But out in the Hamptons, every school has a tennis court. In Forest Hills, Westchester and Long Island's North Shore, the schools have nearly as many tennis courts as the school kids have live-in maids.
Now, you tell me, class, which kids are best prepared to answer the question about "doubles tennis"? The 8-year-olds in Harlem who've never played a set of doubles or the kids whose mommies disappear for two hours every Wednesday with Enrique the tennis pro?

So that's the link-fest. To address two issues raised in the e-mails today (and make this slightly more than a link-fest) . . .

1) Scott McLellan's father's book claiming LBJ was involved in the plot to kill JFK.

I have no idea. I know what Congress found out in the seventies (no LBJ link that I'm remembering) but that didn't stop the Times and others from attacking Oliver Stone or anyone else for that matter. If someone wants to dedicate themselves to attempting to determine what or how something happened (JFK's assassination, 9-11, what have you) good for them. I try to avoid talking about things I don't know about. The reason it's pertinent is that the paper has gone after everyone from Mark Lane to Oliver Stone. But on Scotty's father, they're strangely silent.

My only comment right now re: LBJ is that I think it's appalling that the national press has had so little interest in Lady Bird Johnson's health. I believe she's the oldest living former First Lady and outside of a few AP articles when she had a stumble (if I'm remembering correctly, it was a stumble) there's been little attention given to her.

I think that's sad and that, instead of waiting for her death to review her highways programs or whatever, it should be done while she's alive.

The second issue, transistion, also revolved around a First Lady. Hillary Clinton. No, that wasn't an endorsement of her for senator (or, should she run, for president -- in fact Ava and I are on record that we wouldn't be too keen on that prospect due to her position on the war). It says that it's not an endorsement in the entry.

A few people submitted a highlight I choose not to highlight. I felt it was slight. It was an attack on Hillary Clinton but it didn't take her on for the war or for weaker support for reproductive rights. Or for anything other than how she speaks. I thought she spoke fine (her "plantation" remarks) and I made the decision not to highlight that entry. Take it up with Beth if you feel that was "gatekeeper"ing on my part (no one suggested it was) but there are serious issues that I personally feel Hillary Clinton needs to address and how she speaks isn't one of them.

Whether you agree with what she says or not (I don't agree with most of what she speaks of currently), I really don't think she's a poor speaker. She was an outstanding speaker (my opinion) before she became First Lady and she's remained one. I don't agree with her positions but I don't feel she's a poor speaker. She knows how to communicate.

I don't see any point in grading her communications abilities against Bill Clinton. I would honestly rate her as effective as Bill Clinton. They have different ways of speakings.
I didn't see that the highlight advanced anything so it didn't get noted here. It seemed to be trying for a joke and possibly it achieved that. In another time, I'd be happy to laugh at something silly. But I wasn't in the mood for it today.

I have no problem with people taking her on regarding issues but, my own opinion, it's stretching things to call her a bad speaker. I've seen her go before indifferent and hostile crowds and she's managed to reach them. I thought her speech on MLK Day had the hallmarks of being the best thing she's done in some time.

But that's not an endorsement of her for any office. I'm not doing endorsements. We have members who are Greens and other affiliations. To be fair to them, I'd have to really know everyone of the candidates they were pulling for to give any sort of an endorsement and, even then, the fact that I'm a Democrat would probably spill over. So I'm not doing endorsements. Members can write up an endorsement for anyone they want when we get nearer an election and it can go up here.

I've been critical of her comments before and will be again (short of her refiguring where she stands on the war which I don't see happening -- prove me wrong, please) but I don't think she's a bad speaker and, again, I've seen her speeches win over too many people, too often to feel that something as slight as that entry (built around the assumption that Hillary doesn't know how to speak) to feel it's worth highlighting here. If the same person had wanted to take on her positions, no problem. But just to call her a bad speaker seemed like someone was either pressed for time or just wanted to get a Hillary slam in.

I think that approach (ignoring that highlight) is in keeping with an entry I did last year where I noted that all the people rushing in to say "What Hillary means is . . ." should stop. She's a very smart woman, a very able speaker. She needs to speak for herself and explain her own positions.

If someone wants to take on those positions, we'll highlight it. Even if they mock her, we'll highlight it. (It might be funny.) But to just dash off, "See, she's a bad speaker!" . . . I don't see a point in highlighting that. I don't feel it's true.

Disclosure, I've met Hillary Clinton many times. I won't say I "know" her -- such is the level of my disenchantment. If the Hillary Rodham Clinton, who inspired so many (including me), was running for presidential office, I might have to bite my tongue to avoid doing an endorsement but, as it stands, if she runs, I don't think I'll have any trouble staying silent. (As, many would argue, she has on the war for far too long.)

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