Saturday, January 21, 2006

Ruth's Morning Edition Report

Ruth: Yesterday, Pacifica Radio broadcast Representative John Conyers Jr.'s hearings on the NSA spying of American citizens that circumvented the FISA courts. If you heard the broadcast, anchored by Larry Bensky, you had a good idea of how the Senate should run their hearings. This was the second time we have been able to count on Representative Conyers to call a hearing that the Republican controlled House did not want.

There were strong questions and equally strong answers. I do not know whether there will be any press coverage on this or if, as with the last hearing, the press will just choose to ignore it. If they do cover it, I assume that they will offer snippets of Congress members and expert witnesses.

I would like to draw attention to Richard Hersh because I found his testimony to be to the point and because, if there is press coverage, he seems the sort of witness the press would ignore because he is speaking of his own personal experiences.

Mr. Hersh is not a terrorist but he and his peace group have been spied upon by the Defense Department. These are old tactics of one Bully Boy, Nixon, brought back by our current Bully Boy.

Mr. Hersh noted that, "Quakers welcomed us into their church. . . They knew our purpose was solely to excercise our First Amendment rights . . . We had no idea, until one year later, that the unfamiliar faces in the church, had been sent by the President to spy on us. . . . Agents rummaged through trash, hacked websites and listened in on phone calls. Indeed address books and activist's meetings lists have disappeared. . . . I was spied on in a house of worship in the United States and in a private home in Flordia . . ."

Mr. Hersh further noted that, "I think it's time for us to act. I think to protect our civil liberties and our constitutional rights it's important to hold him accountable. To hold the president and his entire administration accountable for their behaviors. "

The Defense Department's actions were revealed shortly before we learned of the NSA spying and, in the mainstream press, that earlier report seems to have gotten lost; however, it is important and Kate Martin's testimony noted this, "The Defense Department appears to be sending people into religious meetings. . . If we could get the facts, I think we would see that they have changed all the rules . . . and that the NSA is only one aspect of it."

It will be interesting to see whether the Senate hearings touch on this aspect or if, instead, they narrow down the range of discussion to allow the Bully Boy even more wiggle room. The spying is a serious issue and, if you were fortunate enough to listen to the hearing on Pacifica Radio, you heard a strong example of how the Senate should run their own hearings. Among the other strong witnesses offering testimony were James Bamford, Professor Jonathan Turley, and Carole Frederickson.

Representative Jerrold Nadler made the point that the crimes Bully Boy committed in his warrantless spying on American citizens are crimes that come with a long statute of limitations. Short of pardoning himself, even if he escapes Congressional punishment, the crime is still open to prosecution for many years.

After last week's Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, the Conyer's hearings demonstrated that Democrats, at least House members, can still be effective and strong voices.

If you missed the hearings, you can access the KPFA archives for the broadcast and you can also note this program airing Sunday:

Sunday Salon
Big Brother Really IS Watching You...
A look at the Bush Administration's unauthorized domestic surveillance program. Commentary on Representative John Conyers' Congressional hearings on surveillance, and a listen to Al Gore's Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech slamming Bush for breaking the law.
Listen to past shows, get contact and reference info for guests, see announcements of upcoming programs, and more at:

Last Sunday, Larry Bensky, the host of Sunday Salon, addressed the realities and the media coverage of Iraq. It was a lively discussion. Mr. Bensky anchored the coverage of the Conyers' hearing so this Sunday's broadcast should also be of interest.

Friday on CounterSpin, which I listen to on WBAI, Stephen Zunes, a professor at the University of San Francisco, discussed the violent and bloody legacy of Ariel Sharon in contrast to the media portrayals of Prime Minister Sharon as "peacemaker." In addition to that interview, also of interest to the community should be the interview with Danny Schechter, the News Dissector.
Mr. Schechter disussed the Samuel Alito Jr. hearings and wondered, "How did the Democrats blow it so badly?"

The media frame going into the Senate Judiciary Committee was that Judge Alito would react to questioning the way Robert Bork had. When that did not happen, the Democrats had no "alternative strategy." Mr. Schechter pointed out that Judge Alito's performance should not have been surprising since it followed Chief Justice John Roberts Jr.'s hearings "where the same tactic was used."

Once again, as Mr. Schechter explained, the Democrats did not make the case to the American people of why the nomination mattered and why the Supreme Court mattered. Instead, they attempted to provide legal analysis. When the media began rewarding Judge Alito's nonanswers by focusing on "strategy" as opposed to substance, the problems with the existing media were obvious. More on this topic can be found in Mr. Schechter's "
AFTER ALITO: WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT NOW?" What now? The goal should be to become a part of the media process and "grab the opportunity" to do so as we see a shift away from traditional media forms.

Mr. Schechter's books,
When News Media Lies and The Death of Media: And the Fight to Save Democracy, were noted and he was asked to explain the main points that could be taken from the books. With regards to When News Media Lies, Mr. Schechter noted that we would not have "the war in Iraq if the media wasn't supporting it." He spoke of the media war that has existed side by side with the war in Iraq.

This is a topic that his film Weapons of Mass Deception addresses. As noted at
this site Thursday, WMD just won "the top jury award for documentaries in the Breakthrough Human Rights Festival in India." When my grandson Jayson saw that, he asked that I note it and note that his favorite film is WMD. When many of us were in D.C. for the September protest, C.I. and my granddaughter Tracey had planned to exchange a number of books and C.I. also passed along that documentary. If you have not already seen WMD, I will tell you that not only is it Jayson's favorites but it is one that has led to many discussions in my family about the role the media played in the lead up to the war. It is a comprehensive look at the broadcast media that addresses the failures to seriously address administration claims and to offer a wide range of discussion. My very good friend Treva has deemed it the film to watch if you want to "get angry and get active."

Also on Friday, I did listen to a program Rachel suggested on
WBAI, Nonfiction hosted by Harry Allen. This was an interesting program and one I will attempt to listen to in the future. Mr. Allen's first guest Friday was author William Blum. Blum is, as Tracey says, the author of Rogue State "Osama's Book of the Month pick." In the recent broadcast remarks alleged to have been made by Osama bin Laden, the book Rogue State was noted. Since bin Laden was never captured, "dead or alive," he appears to be attempting to poach Oprah's territory. Mr. Blum noted that there were actually two books by him, Freeing the World to Death being the second one, but bin Laden appeared to compress them into a single book.

Mr. Blum said that there would be no "blurb" added to the cover of Rogue State, which has lept up the charts, but that a news item might be added. Mr. Allen asked if bin Laden had attempted to contact him and Mr. Blum replied that had that happened, he would have been worried. The author explained that the book had been translated into Arabic and that possibly bin Laden read a translated copy. (Egypt was one of the two countries that offered an Arabic translation.) More information about Mr. Blum's works can be found at his website Killing Hope.

As most members know, I have been mentioning Pacifica programming in the daily column for the gina & krista round-robins. I have saved Friday's programs for this site but I do have a column in Saturday's round-robin which is an interview I did with Treva where she reflects back on her college days, we went to college together, and what it was like then when abortion was illegal. Please remain active in opposing the confirmation of Judge Alito to the Supreme Court.