Monday, February 06, 2006

Democracy Now: Al Lewis; Senate Hearings (Miss Priss Instant Cuckoo and more)

"What are we voting on?" old Hatchet face Orrin Hatch, aka Miss Priss Instant Cuckoo, when a vote was called on whether to uphold Specter's decision not to have Alberto Gonzales testify under oath.

More on Miss Priss Instant Cuckoo later. Let's move to four items from today's Democracy Now! Headlines:

AG Gonzales to Testify Before Senate Over Domestic Spying
On Capitol Hill, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is testifying today before the Senate over the Bush administration's domestic spying program. While Gonzales is expected to claim the Bush administration can legally carry out the warrantless spying, Senate Judiciary Committee Arlen Specter has admitted the administration's legal reasoning does not hold up. He appeared on Tim Russert's program Meet the Press on Sunday. Meanwhile a new article in the Washington Post raises questions over the effectiveness of the domestic spy program.. Intelligence officers who took part in the eavesdropping on thousands of Americans say they dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat. According to the Post, fewer than 10 U.S. citizens or residents a year have aroused enough suspicion during warrantless eavesdropping to justify interception of their domestic calls.

The Greek Watergate: Phones Tapped of Political & Military Elite
A major spy scandal has also erupted in Greece where it has been uncovered that the mobile phones of the country's entire political and military elite were tapped ahead of the Olympic Games in Athens two years ago. Among those targeted were the Foreign, Defense and Public Order Ministers, as well as the Prime Minister and the leadership of the armed forces. Others included civil rights activists, the head of the 'stop the war' coalition, journalists and Arabs based in Athens. The Greek government says it is unclear who carried out the eavesdropping. According to the Observer of London, hi-tech software was put in place at the telephone company Vodafone that enabled phone conversations to be diverted to a set of 14 'shadow' mobile phones which then relayed them to a recording system. Officials say the calls were intercepted on mobile phones picked up by antennae in an area close to the US embassy. The Greek government has launched a judicial investigation but has denied U.S. agents were behind the plot. Vodafone reported the eavesdropping to the Greek government last March but before doing so the company had shut down the system making it impossible for investigators to determine who was carrying out the spying.

40,000 Pay Tribute to Coretta Scott King
In Georgia, over 40,000 mourners paid their respects to civil rights pioneer Coretta Scott King by filing past her open casket in the state Capitol's rotunda. She became the first woman and the first African-American person to lie in honor there. She died last Monday at the age of 78. Today's Coretta Scott King's body will lie in honor at the original Ebenezer Baptist Church where her late husband, Martin Luther King, once preached.

Leonard Peltier Jailed 30 Years Ago Today
And today marks the 30th anniversary of the imprisonment of Native American activist Leonard Peltier. Rallies are being held across the country to call for his release. He was convicted of killing of killing two FBI agents during a shoot-out on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. But Peltier has long maintained his innocence. This is from an interview in 2000 I did with him from jail. We will post an MP3 of the full interview on our website democracynow dot org. In a recent statement to supporters, Peltier said "We are all geared up to file more appeals on new information my legal team has found while reviewing withheld documents. I want you to know that we will continue to fight for my freedom."

The above four items were selected by Marci, Brady, Lynda and Jonah. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for February 6, 2006

- Muslim Protests Intensify Over Prophet Muhammad Cartoons
- Iran: Willing to Discuss Moving Uranium Program to Russia
- Pioneering Feminist, Betty Friedan, 85, Dies
- AG Gonzales to Testify Before Senate Over Domestic Spying
- The Greek Watergate: Phones Tapped of Political & Military Elite
- Federal Judge Sets Libby Trial To Start in Jan. 2007
- California Prison in Lockdown After Large Fight
- Up to 1,000 Dead In Egyptian Ferry Accident
- 40,000 Pay Tribute to Coretta Scott King
- Leonard Peltier Jailed 30 Years Ago Today

"Grandpa" Al Lewis 1923-2006: Actor, Radio Host and Lifelong Political Activist Dead at 82

Actor and activist Al Lewis died at the age of 82. In the acting world, he was best known for playing Grandpa on the Munsters. He was also a lifelong activist. At the age of 82 he ran for New York Governor on the Green Party ticket and was a longtime radio host on Pacifica station WBAI.

Betty Friedan 1921-2006: Women's Rights Pioneer Helped Launch Modern-Day Feminist Movement

Women's rights pioneer Betty Friedan has died at the age of 85. Founder of the National Organization for Women and author of the groundbreaking book "The Feminine Mystique" - she helped launch the modern-day feminist movement. We speak with Friedan's biographer, the first woman network news anchor and a leading woman's health activist.

Highlights will start with a powerful editorial, BuzzFlash's "Alberto Gonzales Should be Under Investigation, Not Overseeing Them:"

Gonzales's most famous act of early loyalty was when he got Bush out of Texas jury duty, while he was serving as governor, because the jury screening form would have required Bush to disclose his prior arrest for drunken driving.
It was, as Claude Reins tells Humphrey Bogart in the classic film "Casablanca," the beginning of a wonderful relationship.
Gonzales will tell the Judiciary Committee that the program was entirely legal. He will be the loyal consigliere. He has no choice; he helped create the program.
According to the New York Times, even right wing whacko and infamous anti-Clinton cheerleader, former Congressman Bob Barr says, ''Clearly, people know his testimony reflects the same view as the White House counsel, and that it's not so much reflecting anything approaching an independent legal analysis. He's there as a lawyer for the president, as opposed to being an advocate for the Constitution and the laws of the country. It's a fine line, and I'm not so sure in his current capacity he has a great deal of credibility.''
But here's the bottom line. The Democrats will question Gonzales hard, but what will they do in the end?
That's the question. Gonzales is the architect of the legal justification for torture -- and then claims he didn't authorize "torture," despite the disclosure of a White House Counsel document signed by him proving that he did.
Just last week, news stories re-emerged that
Gonzales took no steps to prevent White House Staff from destroying e-mails and documents relating to the Valerie Plame outing until it was too late. Then he finally "warned" them to maintain all relevant documents after they had several days to shred and delete them.
Gonzales also played a likely role, as White House Counsel, in the removal of a career Department of Justice prosecutor who was close to indicting Abramoff on one of his White House connected lobbying efforts --
this one relating to Guam.And guess what? Just a short time back the White House "promoted" the chief DOJ Abramoff prosecutor to a judgeship. It's clear that the White House wants to insulate the Abramoff prosecution from clear connections to the Bush Administration, right up to Rove, Bush and Gonzales.
36 Democratic senators politely called for a special prosecutor in the Abramoff case, because right now Gonzales is ultimately responsible for an investigation that probably includes himself.
But, at the very least, Gonzales, as the Bush consigliere, is out to suppress the Abramoff illegal ties to the White House, not expose them.

So the hearings . . .

Miss Priss Instant Cuckoo should be played by Oliver Platt who would put just the right amount of priss into the performance.

So Arlen Specter stabbed democracy in the back right at the start of the hearings. His spin was so amazing you kept expecting him to come up with some theory on a "magic bullet" . . . Oh wait, he pulled that trick decades ago.

His trick today? Albie Gonzales won't be under oath. Hand on heart, Specter swears that Albie is okay with being under oath, but Specter, like the lead singer of a sixties girl group, just keeps right on singing "Oh No, Not My Baby" and "Don't Say Nothing Bad About My Baby."

You saw Russ Feingold and Patrick Leahy object strongly. And? A vote was called. This is where Miss Priss Instant Cuckoo asked, "What are we voting on?"

You saw Repube Sessions cluck, "It's a question of propriety and good taste."

Leahy fought. He was the first Dem to question and he was on point, he did a wonderful job. And?

Then others spoke.

Ted Kennedy? Is he awake? Herbert Kohl, the Invisible Man? Get real. Dianne Feinstein has her best, white, kid gloves on again.

Let's watch as Dianne Feinstein throws in the towel yet again. Let's note BuzzFlash called her on her inept behavior in the Alito hearings. I'm missing anyone else doing that. (We called her here and in this community.)

DiFi, why do you ask questions? Or why do you ask your meandering questions?

Do you want answers?

If so, why say the following when Albie refuses to answer your questions:

Fair enough, let's move along.

Okay, that's fine.

I just want to ask some others [questions], you don't have to answer if you don't want to.

If that's it, if that's the best you can do, quit wasting everyone's time.

She was useless in the Alito hearings and she's useless so far today.

Why doesn't she get called on this nonsense?

Is it that people who feel fine slamming Joe Biden for going on too long don't feel comfortable critizicing DiFi while she plays "The Girl of Sigma Chi Senate"? Years and years ago, Janis Joplin promised to "Show you, baby, that a woman can be tough" but apparently DiFi and the critics who give her a pass never heard "Piece of My Heart."

Let's talk about what happened this morning.

Leahy put Albie on the defensive. Ted Kennedy gave him comfort.

Keep him on the defensive. Don't give him comfort. Albie doesn't have a useable soundbyte while he's nervous. He drops syllables when he's nervous. "President" becomes "Presents." He sounds like a complete moron (no suprise). Keep him on the defensive and he's got no soundbyte. Seriously, he repeatedly slurs his words when he's nervous and he repeatedly drops syllables. People watching a clip of that will wonder what the hell is wrong with him and start to wonder if Harriet Miers might have been one of the more qualified persons sending in the administration?

Kennedy did an awful job. The tension was in the air. Leahy had done an amazing job. Even with the coddling by a Republican before Ted Kennedy's turn came. In a matter of minutes, Albie was put at ease.

Was it a strategy? Were Dems going to play good-cop/bad-cop? No. Leahy did his job and everyone else is snoozing.

Kennedy also made a mistake they all need to avoid making. "General." That's how he addressed Albie. Bully Boy is trying to make spying on Americans part of the war effort. It's not. Don't help Albie make his argument by calling him "General." He's the Attorney General. And note that Albie doesn't always say "Senator." Why even bother to address him? "You." Start your questions with "you." Start them anyway, but don't say "General."

Kohl had some points to make but had no spirit, no life. The Invisible Man is slumped posture personafied.

The performance thus far isn't going to cut it. There's too much at stake for this nonsense. Dianne Feinstein needs to get her act together immediately or step down from the committee. She and the rest need to come to life.

Hatchet-face, Miss Priss Instant Cuckoo, cut off Leahy with, "Let him answer!" But you'll note, while propping him up and trying to help Albie regain his composure, Miss Priss Instant Cuckoo had no problem interrupting Albie.

So we've got Feingold when the hearings resume. There's hope. But unless they can pull it together and learn what works and what doesn't quickly, there's not a whole lot of hope.

Listen to him when Leahy had the floor (and immediately after when Hatchet-face all but held his hand), he was flustered. His voice cracked, it squeaked. (He needs a squeak suppressor.) And his words were gibberish.

Get him back in that zone. Keep him nervous, keep him looking shifty.

Why is it that Leahy can say, "You haven't answered my question" but DiFi can say, her voice dripping with sugar, "You don't have to answer if you don't want to." Get on the same page. Work as a team.

Albie was a joke even after he got his composure back. Such as here: "To the extent that Congress wants to suggest legislation, we would listen to your ideas." Oh would you, Albie. Congress makes the law, you damn well better believe you'd listen.

Last casting note: Mike DeWine played by the late Shelly Winters. Why? "I-ah-ah-ah-ah-uh . ." The Method Actor of the Senate, Republican Mike DeWine.

How did Albie regain composure? Hatchetface going over cases and prior experiences (and, really, feeding him, note how long it takes Albie to snap out of the stupor Leahy's questions left him in). Is there a reason no Dem made the point that
the majority of the things cited were useless:

Myth #9: There's historic precedent.
The administration references a "long tradition of wartime enemy surveillance" including George Washington intercepting mail between the British and Americans.
Reality Check:
True, but not relevant, because this was before the rights revolution of the twentieth century and before the abuses that led Congress, in 1978, to establish FISA as the "exclusive means" .... In 1775, during the Revolutionary War, when the Continental Congress was attempting to overthrow the brutal government of King George, one of General George Washington's war strategies was to have General Schuyler open mail between the British and the Tories. Note that this was before there was a United States Constitution or even a nation called the United States!
The truth is that this president's extreme claims of executive power -- to torture, to kidnap and detain indefinitely without charge, to ignore explicit Congressional laws -- are actually unprecedented in degree in US history, and fly in the face of this nation's founding principles of revolution against arbitrary imperial power.

That's from "Bush Administration Mythmaking: Defenses of National Security Agency Warrantless Wiretaps" (Bill Of Rights Defense Center) and Eddie noted it in an e-mail this morning.

KeShawn notes Roland S. Martin's "'Just a wife' minimizes greatness of Coretta Scott King" (The Chicago Defender) and we're focusing, for the excerpt, on the day of MLK's funeral:

It seems that as the press was establishing the pool of photographers who would chronicle the funeral of one of the world's greatest freedom fighters, their racism reared it's ugly head when they refused to allow black photographers from Ebony and Jet, the nation's preeminent black publications. Apparently, even their own racial apartheid couldn't be broken to photograph the funeral of a man who broke down racial barriers across the nation.
Instead of sulking, Bennett said he and the late Robert E. Johnson, the longtime editor of Jet Magazine -- who were covering the funeral -- approached Andrew Young, one of Dr. King's closest aides, "and lodged a protest."
There was a close relationship between the journalists and the Kings because Johnson and Martin King were classmates at the all-black and male Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1948. Bennett finished from Morehouse in 1949.
Bennett said that Young told Mrs. King that the magazine was not going to be allowed to photograph the funeral via the pool, which would have been a disgrace considering it was Ebony and Jet that, more than any other national media, chronicled every step of the Civil Rights Movement, and used its pages to provide a platform to a relatively unknown King to the nation and world.
King, still reeling from the murder of her husband, told Young to let it be known that if Ebony and Jet weren't allowed in the pool, nobody would.
Her courage to stand up to the bigoted photographers led to Moneta Sleet Jr. photographing the funeral, and it was he who shot that amazing photo of a solemn Mrs. King cradling her daughter, Bernice. That photo earned him the Pulitzer Prize for photography, the first African American awarded journalism's top prize.

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Font and a "t" added to "taste" corrected by Jess.