Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Other Items

David E. Sanger and Eric Lichtblau offer "Administration Starts Weeklong Blitz in Defense of Eavesdropping Program." Here's what you need to know from the article, Bully Boy's claiming he did nothing wrong, they're using "terrorism" to shift the focus away from domestic spying, he's avoiding discussing FISA (because he broke the law and if FISA comes up, his lame argument crumbles). Now here's what you need to know about reality.

Op-eds that give a shout out to the Church Committe (and maybe a whisper to the Pike Committee)? They don't help a damn bit. I noted when this story was breaking the people needed to open the archives. It hasn't happened. I have no idea why.

But it needs to. I was on twelve campuses this weekend (opposition to Alito). There were political students I met with. These were people who try to follow the news, try to keep up.
A big mistake's being made if people are assuming they're going to remember the Church Committee (the more public of the two). They can't remember what they didn't live through and what they weren't taught.

The Village Voice needs to make the Pike Report available online. Don't want to do it for free? Put up highlights and offer a printed copy for sale. The Nation and The Progressive (In These Times wasn't around during this period) need to make their coverage from that period available.
This needs to be done immediately. (I doubt it will be.) It needs to be done before the hearings start.

Spying on Americans without a warrant is illegal. Elizabeth Holtzman's "The Impeachment of George W. Bush" (The Nation) did a great job making its case. But people need more background. They need to know what happened when America went through this before -- what was the reaction in Congress, what was the reaction of the people? They need a grounding.

We're not going to do a sports analogy here. We'll do cooking, okay? If you've never had bread in any form and someone serves you a burned piece of toast, you may think, "Well that's bad." You won't think it's wrong unless you know about toast.

On campuses, political students grasp that Bully Boy's spying was "bad." They need some background on why it's wrong. I was there to talk about Alito but after that, the thing that kept coming up was the NSA spying. They care about this issue. They want information. "What was the Church Committee?" didn't come up by my prompting it or even mentioning it, it came up time and again by a student asking about it. Usually prefaced by, "I read this thing at ___ and they were talking about it but I don't know what that's about."

It would be wonderful if the mainstream media would leap in and provide perspective. They're not doing that. They're tossing it out in an sentence.

Now someone can say, "Well they should look it up themselves." Why? Why when this echoes today and when stories and opinion pieces are being written about it today, why should they look it up on their own? The Village Voice has the Pike Report. If they want to make a profit, do highlights and sell it. (I'm not even remembering them noting it in their anniversary issue this year. But I could be wrong about that. Noting that they published it or the fall out that came from that.)

One student did look for information on the Pike Report. He found a collection of speeches by Daniel Schorr in book form. Schorr did pass the report to The Village Voice (and CBS, his then employer, fired him) (and the New York Times editorialized against Schorr). But the student said he understood that Schorr thought the report was important ("and explosive"), he just didn't understand "what all was in the report."

To focus on The Nation, they are at an all time high in circulation (deservedly so). Their reach is greater now than it's ever been because not only do they have the huge circulation, they also have their internet site. Dig into the archives and expose this huge audience to what happened before and how the country reacted. Show them that the country didn't just think it was "bad," they thought it was wrong. They need a point of reference and tossing out the Pike Report or the Church Committee in a paragraph isn't doing that.

When Eugene McCarthy passed away, within a week (two days?) The Progressive had two pieces available online from their archives. They did that in PDF format. Not everyone likes PDF. (I try to do a heads up when we link to it because it does cause some members with older computers problems -- the screen tends to freeze for them.) There is no reason that any of them can't do the same. Scan it in, post in PDF format.

The Village Voice, at the time, was full of high minded words about how they published the Pike Report as a public service, that the people needed to know. Their reluctance to share it now calls that motive into question.

Much was made of the anniversary of the "Reagan Revolution" recently. It had been 25 years!
Well, the committees in question predate the so-called revolution. A huge number of people have come to age never learning of this part of our history.

I'm not trying to gripe at anyone and certainly I'll give credit to anyone who's written on the topic regardless of whether the committees were mentioned or not. But people not aware of these committees are longing for context and that's not provided in a sentence or paragraph. Any number of writers writing on this topic could provide that in a long article if they had time to write it. I'm not sure that we have time with Bully Boy on the offensive.

If the Alito hearings proved anything, it was that we shouldn't hope our leaders (or "leaders") will come to our rescue. So those with archived articles would be doing a huge service to the public if they would make them available. (Even some of them available. Or in the case of the Voice, highlights.) People need to have access to their countries recent history and they need to have that access before the hearings start. If nothing's done on this ahead of time and the Democrats do another poor job (Democrats and some Republicans), we're screwed on this issue.
The traction is lost and there's not a comeback.

With the exception of African-American students, almost all were in the dark. (African-American history texts, especially those dealing with the Black Panthers, cover this period of our history.)

One thing cited from this period was Mark Felt and Jennifer Dohrn's panties. We highlighted that here because I knew it would catch attention. "Panties!" It stands out. Democracy Now! has a larger college audience now then it did a year ago. (Which is great and may it continue to grow.) Students weren't connecting that to the NSA issues of today, but they were able to talk about how Jennifer Dorhn was spied on and her apartment was broken into (illegal search) by the FBI because they saw Amy Goodman interview her.

What the hell, we'll do a sports analogy. (Which, I'm sure, Mike will tell me I screwed up. And I'm sure he'll be right.) If you've never been to a basketball game before and you see the Lakers beat the Pacers you may think, "Huh." It may not be a close game, but you've got nothing to judge it by. If the Pacers' scores if 15 and the Lakers is nearly ten times that*, you're not going to get what you just saw: a really bad game. But if you know about basketball, you're going to grasp that something awful happened.

(*"But if you know about basketball . . ." which obviously I don't. But I could think of two basketball teams and was blanking on other sports. Fill in the blank with 85 or whatever is a
high score.)

I spoke to group after group this weekend. (And was glad to.) In terms of the NSA, they get that it's bad, they're trying to get why it's wrong. They need the context, they need the history.
And after the hearings on Alito, we shouldn't expect that the job will be done in the Senate.

So I won't be accused of playing favorites, we'll use Eric Alterman as an example. Alterman could write a lengthy piece explaining the history in an understandable way that would give context to those who either didn't absorb in real time or didn't live through it. But Alterman may not have the time for an undertaking like that. And we may not have the time to wait as Bully Boy launches his latest spin campaign.

Take the Senate. Joe Biden probably could provide context. After all the slams for his questioning in the Alito hearings, people may decide that what they want to do is be brief as possible.

And if you're someone as knowledgable as Katrina vanden Heuvel or Matthew Rothschild, that may be fine because you have the base to pull from and fill in the blanks. But we're not all on that level. The time between now and the NSA hearings can be spent hoping that the Democrats will have their act together. Or we can do the work that the history classes didn't do.

And about those history classes . . . Ask what they do learn. A college freshman replied to that with, "Who is Ted Kennedy?" She knew who he was. She asked because last spring, in her high school civics class, the teacher, the history teacher, rolled in a TV and VCR and made them watch the news broadcast from the evening before. Ted Kennedy was on it. One question in the quiz afterwards asked them to name at least one elected official from the broadcast. She answered Ted Kennedy. She was marked wrong. She was told "Edward Kennedy" had been on the broadcast, "not Ted." The teacher, the history teacher who teaches civics, didn't know that Ted and Edward were the same person.

If that doesn't worry you . . .

In this community, members who weren't adults or young adults during the mid-seventies, if they have any base of knowledge of the two committees, have learned it on their own, not from the public school system. (Two members learned it due to their families own personal history.)
I think it's a mistake to count on elected officials to make this case.

(We'll have something up here on the committees shortly. I'd love for it to be this evening but I haven't been to sleep and if the vote doesn't go well in the Senate today, I can't promise that I'll do anything besides go straight to sleep.)

(Context is clear to me but it may not be to those who didn't hear the students speak. A nice amount gets that FISA was created because something really bad happened. That's all they're getting when someone writes "Following the exposure of illegal government activities by the Church Committee, FISA was created . . .")

For Bully Boy to be successful with the spin, he has to blur the line. The less informed we are as a public, the more successful his aim will be.

Back to the Times, and on the subject of what Alito might mean, Michael Janofsky's "At March on the Mall, Abortion Foes Rally Behind a New Theme: Alito." What can you say?

Hmm. How about where's that "balance" the Times prides itself on? Or are the two paragraphs noting NARAL president Nancy Keenan supposed to "balance" out Bully Boy, a representative and all the other loons gathered?

Janofsky's happy to note signs. Such as the one equating Roe to "Hitler's Holocaust." Janofsky's just not willing to do the basic work. Like pointing out that Hitler was opposed to abortion. (Couldn't fill up the Nazi brigrades otherwise.) Or, most obvious, a woman excercising her right to determine whether or not she will carry a pregnancy to term isn't exactly the same as human beings sent to death camps.

And the Times wanted to talk about invective yesterday?

(By the way part two from the last post of yesterday is in this morning's round-robin. I intended for it to go up here but I had promised Gina and Krista two columns for each of their round-robins and I honestly had nothing else to say. Thanks to Isaiah who does have a comic strip today and has provided one for the round-robin each day that they've been doing these special round-robins. I know he was feeling like he was running out of ideas and I can relate to that.)

So what do I think when I read the article? I think of how some were suprised when Bully Boy clued his "base" in with Dred Scott during the debate. And I think about the surprise on the part of some about how church groups have been mobilized and how the right wing media sprung up. I think about that and I think about Gloria Steinem's "If Hitler Were Alive, Whose Side Would He Be On?" essay that appeared in 1980 and covered those topics. (Hitler was oppsoed to abortion.) (Essay appeared in Ms., Ocotober 1980, and is available in Steinem's Outrageous Acts & Everyday Rebellions.)

And I wonder why the Times frets of invective one day and then the next allows it to appear without question in a news report?

Zach notes Robert Parry's "The End of 'Unalienable Rights'" (Consortium News):

Every American school child is taught that in the United States, people have "unalienable rights," heralded by the Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Supposedly, these liberties can't be taken away, but they are now gone.
Today, Americans have rights only at George W. Bush’s forbearance. Under new legal theories -- propounded by Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito and other right-wing jurists -- Bush effectively holds all power over all Americans.
He can spy on anyone he wants without a court order; he can throw anyone into jail without due process; he can order torture or other degrading treatment regardless of a new law enacted a month ago; he can launch wars without congressional approval; he can assassinate people whom he deems to be the enemy even if he knows that innocent people, including children, will die, too.
Under the new theories, Bush can act both domestically and internationally. His powers know no bounds and no boundaries.
Bush has made this radical change in the American political system by combining what his legal advisers call the "plenary" -- or unlimited -- powers of the Commander in Chief with the concept of a "
unitary executive" in control of all laws and regulations.
Yet, maybe because Bush's assertion of power is so extraordinary, almost no one dares connect the dots. After a 230-year run, the "unalienable rights" -- as enunciated by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the Founding Fathers -- are history.
Legal Analysis
The Justice Department spelled out Bush's latest rationale for his new powers on Jan. 19 in a 42-page legal analysis defending Bush's right to wiretap Americans without a warrant.
Bush's lawyers said the congressional authorization to use force against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks "places the President at the zenith of his powers" and lets him use that authority domestically as well as overseas. [NYT, Jan. 20, 2006]

Zach noted the highlight before on Parry as well. I doubt Parry will have a new one up by the next post (I could be wrong) but the results of the poll in this morning's round-robin are a strong "no" to happy talk. If you see something that makes you laugh, by all means share it. But people aren't the mood to be told today how good things are. Overwhelming, the community's focused on the vote in the Senate. So don't even bother submitting something for that entry if it's of the, "Well, things look bad but if you think about it . . ." because the majority isn't the mood for that.

And we have a highlight that Dallas just in. Thank you, Dallas, thank you, BuzzFlash. I was just noting John Kerry's weak-ass e-mail (see previous entry) and wondering, "Was that too harsh?" As always, for strong, straight talking, cut through the crap and say what needs to be said editorials, we can count on BuzzFlash. Here's their "The Power of One:"

Of all the bullying insults to democracy, George W. Bush, a man who has shown utter contempt for the rule of law and civilized governance, is about to pack the Supreme Court with a majority who will grant him the powers of a king.
The Democrats in the Senate, as we predicted in multiple editorials, will not filibuster Samuel Alito, short of some miraculous epiphany and spinal transplant.
(See "
Sam Alito and the End of Constitutional Checks and Balances: The Senate Dems are About to Hang Themselves," which includes links to most of the pertinent BuzzFlash commentaries.)
Those chronically timid and cautious Democratic Senators who find comfort in passivity and enabling the dismantling of our Democracy should take note that times have changed.
The revolution to restore the gift of the American Revolution -- our Constitution -- is moving from a simmer to a boil, by the power of one exponentially multiplied into an army of patriots.
The biggest risk now of Democratic presidential "contenders" is in thinking that there is no risk in giving tyranny a pass. If you are a Democrat, let's say a John Kerry or Hillary Clinton, and you talk a tough "No" on Alito, that is not enough. Strong words against a bully mean nothing; swagger and verbal bravado are just blather against a political thug; all that matters is bold action in defense of the Republic.
A Democratic Senator voting for Alito in New York or Massachusetts would be risking political suicide. It is no profile in courage to vote "No."

There's a great highlight that Tori's noted but we'll save it for later today because it's a realistic look (like Parry's) and we may go with just those. (Again, if something makes you laugh, the poll results say that's fine, people are willing and needing a good laugh. But the "pep talks" -- as Gina and Krista termed them in the poll questions -- are not wanted.)

In the round-robin this morning (either about to go out or already out, check inboxes), you've got every number you could need. You've got offices in states (plural), you've got DC. You've got e-mail address and websites. Use them. It's the last day to make a difference.

Be sure to check out Democracy Now! today.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.