Monday, February 13, 2006

Democracy Now: Alice Walker, Danny Schechter, Robert Parry, Maureen Farrell, FCC issue ...

Christian Peace Group Charged Over Gitmo Vigil
Meanwhile, the US government has served legal papers to seven members of a US Christian group that held a vigil outside the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The group, Witness Against Torture, held a five-day march to the prison in December. Around 500 prisoners are being held at Guantanamo, most without charge. The seven members each face up to 10 years in prison or a $250,000 dollar fine. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights said: "I find it extremely hypocritical that Washington is investigating this group for the 'crime' of traveling to Cuba. The U.S. government is flagrantly violating even the most basic norms of human rights -- such as indefinite detention without charges, denial of fair trials and, most importantly, torture."

Ex-CIA Officials Say US Threats Helped Drive Iran Nuclear Program
This news on Iran -- Two high-level former CIA officials say the intelligence community has believed that fear of a US attack has been a principal factor in Iran's motives to pursue nuclear weapons. The officials made the comments in separate interviews with the Interpress News Service. Paul Pillar, the former national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, who oversaw all National Intelligence Estimates on Iran from 2000 to 2005, said: "Iranian perceptions of threat, especially from the United States and Israel, were not the only factor, but were in our judgment part of what drove whatever effort they were making to build nuclear weapons."

Media Groups Call for Public Input on Video Franchising
And finally, community groups and public access television stations across the country are calling on viewers to join a campaign many see as a fight for the future of public access television. The Federal Communications Commission is considering "Video Franchising" -- where large cable and telecom companies enter into agreements with local municipalities that include funding for public access TV. Several companies, including Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner are attempting to weaken or do away with these agreements. Today is the last day for viewers to submit their comments to the FCC.

On the last item, before we go further, click here to go to the FCC website. To write they're asking you to use their forms (online forms) -- the FCC is asking that you use their forms. You don't have to do that. You can skip the FCC website and just use the following e-mail addresses:

Chairman Kevin J. Martin:
Commissioner Michael J. Copps:
Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein:
Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate:

Make your voice heard and we'll return to this topic, via an action alert, at the end of this entry.

So the three items above are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Micah, Sabina and Terry. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for February 13, 2006

- Election Officials Allege "Manipulation" As Preval Lead Declines
- Cheney Accidentally Shoots Hunting Partner
- New Video Shows British Troops Beating Iraqi Youths
- Al-Jaafari Chosen For 2nd Term As Iraq PM
- Report: US Aiding Construction of Morocoo Prison
- Christian Peace Group Charged Over Gitmo Vigil
- Ex-FEMA Head Criticizes White House in Katrina Testimony
- Media Groups Call for Public Input on Video Franchising

"I am a Renegade, an Outlaw, a Pagan" - Author, Poet and Activist Alice Walker in Her Own Words

February is African-American History Month. To honor it, we bring you a conversation with the renowned author, poet and activist Alice Walker. She is perhaps best known for her book "The Color Purple" for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983, becoming the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer for fiction. The novel was adapted into an Oscar-nominated feature length film and has been recently made into a Broadway musical. Alice Walker's latest novel is "Now is the Time to Open Your Heart."
Last month, 1,000 people gathered in the First Congregational Church in Oakland to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Media Alliance. We spend the hour playing Amy Goodman's onstage interview with Alice Walker. [includes rush transcript - partial]

We'll start the highlights by answering a question in a few e-mails this morning. Danny Schechter noted today that he had an essay at CBS' Public Eye. A few members are e-mailing asking where? Here's an excerpt from Danny's "Outside Voices: Danny Schechter Dissects CBS News:"

For me CBS was always the mothership of TV news and standard-setter for the industry. Even when I worked at ABC News and CNN, there was a sense of CBS as the news leader. The film "Good Night, and Good Luck" offered a flashback to the days when the network made its reputation by challenging those in power. Today, it seems that it's safer to play the role of handmaiden.
CBS is no longer an oasis in the desert of that proverbial great wasteland but a port of call. The "golden years" are honored in retrospectives but CBS too has succumbed to the bottom-line dictates of corporate pressure. The House of Murrow has been repositioned as the home of "Survivor," country music awards and dramas about crime scenes.
Like other networks, CBS has gone from serving democracy to targeting demographics. News is no longer what the "Big Eye" is known for. The news division was strip-mined by Larry Tisch when he was in command. Later show-biz merged with news-biz under what the kids who work at MTV call "the Viacomese."
What was always a tug of war between conscience and commerce seems have been decided by bottom-line dictates.
The evidence? CBS alumni are inundating the bookstores with highly detailed tell-all tales explaining the decline. There's Mary Mapes, who indicts CBS's parent company for not standing by Dan Rather in his probe of the president's military service, or lack thereof. There's distinguished news veteran Tom Fenton lashing out at the lack of coverage of the world. And former producer Kristina Borjesson charges CBS censorship in her book, "Into the Buzzsaw."
Then, in a class by himself, there's one-time liberal turned renegade Bernie Goldberg, repositioned as media darling of the far right with pandering tomes that seem motivated more by avariciousness and personal bitterness than critical insights. The former correspondent has built a new career bashing his old employer as the poster boy of that bugaboo, the "liberal media."
What was so liberal when CBS was
hailed by the conservative and patriotically-correct Media Research Center in 2003 for best war coverage by a network? (Fox won their kudos for cable coverage.) Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) found "that Rather's broadcast had the highest percentage of official U.S. sources (75 percent) and the lowest number (less than one percent) of U.S. anti-war voices (Extra!, 5-6/03)."
What's so liberal about a media environment that led Dan Rather himself to confess on BBC that he pulled punches in his post 9/11 coverage for fear of being "necklaced" (i.e. having a burning tire put around his head) if he strayed from the Bush war on terror mantra?

That will be it for the media criticism highlights in this entry. (Yes, only one, but what a one.) We're going to focus instead on some highlights about state of the world (media does go to state of the world, no question). First Zach and Joan both note Robert Parry's "Why U.S. Intelligence Failed, Redux" (Consortium News):

Paul Pillar, the CIA's senior intelligence analyst for the Middle East from 2000 to 2005, has written a critique of the Bush administration's handling of pre-war intelligence on Iraq that, in effect, corroborates the British "Downing Street Memo" in accusing the Bush administration of rigging the evidence to justify the invasion.
The British memo recounted a July 23, 2002, meeting in which Richard Dearlove, chief of the British intelligence agency MI6, told Prime Minister Tony Blair about discussions in Washington with George W. Bush's top national security officials. "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," Dearlove said, according to the minutes.
After the "Downing Street Memo" was revealed in Great Britain in 2005, Bush's spokesmen heatedly denied its claims and major U.S. news outlets dismissed its significance. But in the upcoming issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, Pillar offers a matching account. He wrote that the administration didn't just play games with the traditional notion that objective analysis should inform responsible policy, but "turned the entire model upside down."
"The administration used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made," Pillar wrote. "The Bush administration deviated from the professional standard not only in using policy to drive intelligence, but also in aggressively using intelligence to win public support for its decision to go to war. This meant selectively adducing data --- 'cherry-picking' -- rather than using the intelligence community's own analytic judgments."
These two accounts -- which are further bolstered by first-hand statements from former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Colin Powell's former chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson -- reveal an administration long determined to invade Iraq and assembling reasons that would scare the American people into supporting an unprovoked war.
Yet, while the American public has a right to be furious about getting tricked into a war that has killed nearly 2,300 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis, there are other concerns about why the U.S. intelligence community let itself be so manipulated, staying silent when a strong protest to Congress might have derailed Bush's scheme.
On Oct. 23, 2003, addressed this longer-range question of why U.S. intelligence failed. That story, which is reprinted in an updated form below, shows that the politicization of intelligence has been a goal of neoconservative operatives for three decades. They have long understood the value of turning the principle of objective analysis on its head [. . .]

Use the link within the excerpt above to read the original piece or click here to continue reading after the excerpt.

Now, Cindy notes Bruce Mulkey's "A Sheep-Like Nation Is Allowing Bush to Erode Our Liberties and Well-Being" (Asheville Citizen Times via Common Dreams):

I awaken many mornings asking myself: "Why haven’t I taken to the streets with my fellow citizens demanding the resignation of this pretender to the throne?" "How can I go about my usual daily routine, while my country gradually slides into fascism in the name of national security?" "What am I so fearful of that I stand immobilized while innocent men, women and children are being killed in my name?" "How can I, in good conscience, continue to pay my federal taxes knowing that a large portion of them is going to the immoral war in Iraq and other such military adventures?"
In 1775, speaking in favor of action to throw off the tyranny of the British crown, Patrick Henry declared: "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? ... I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
Today we Americans seem to be saying quite the opposite by our acquiescence: "Give me a powerful ruler to save me from the terrorists even if this means surrendering my rights as an American citizen."
From where I stand, there are worse things than passing from this mortal form. For if I permit the loss of my individual freedom, my personal integrity and the liberties that this nation stands for, am I not already among the living dead?
Bruce Mulkey is an Asheville writer and a communications consultant. A former community columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times, a collection of his commentaries have been published in "Peaceful Patriots: Taking a Stand for Peace in an Era of Endless War," now available in paperback at or Malaprops.

Cindy notes The Third Estate Sunday Review's "A Note To Our Readers" and wonders if I woke outraged again this morning (see the link)? Yes, I did. The whole point of what's been called the "F.U." edition of Sunday's The Third Estate Sunday Review is that we're not in the mood to "play." Is it a mood? Maybe. But there's a lot of nonsense out there. (My comments are on print. I upset a blogger last week with a comment directed at print which he took to be directed at the blog-world. I don't have time to surf online. Nor do I consider myself even up to reading Blogging for Dummies. I don't comment on what I don't feel I know anything about. Unless otherwise stated, always consider my broadsides to be directed at the mainstream media -- print version unless otherwise stated.)

I'm outraged that the Guantanamo detainees are abused (that's force-feeding -- and it was abuse in the last century when it was used on the suffragettes) and the New York Times wants to call it "tough" measures. I'm outraged that year after year, they're held and we're not concerned about that. For those who missed it, we're not speaking of anyone convicted in military tribunal, let alone in a court of law. We're detaining without convictions. For how many years will this go on?

I'm outraged that we saw 15 American military fatalities last week but they aren't interested in that. ("They" = print media.) I'm outraged that they want to patter on in their columns about Oprah's Book Club when I doubt they've ever read a book Oprah's put on her list. Maybe that's an issue that Oprah and the Book Club should be obsessing over and not people jerking off in print to fill up space?

I could go on. But, yes, I'm still outraged this morning. And not alone. Check out Eddie's highlight this morning, Maureen Farrell's "Detention Camp Jitters" (BuzzFlash):

In 1984, the Rex-84 readiness exercise program was conducted by 34 federal departments and agencies, reportedly as an exercise to handle an influx of illegal aliens crossing the Mexican/U.S. border. Brought to Americans' attention during the Iran-contra hearings, the exercise, which was conducted alongside another drill, "Night Train 84," also tested military readiness to round up and detain citizens in case of massive civil unrest.
None of that ever happened, of course, and in many respects, it seems silly to even mention it. After all, other Reagan-era initiatives, like the Armageddon exercises Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld participated in, are far more interesting. Then, too, despite a brief moment of sunlight in the 1970s (when Congress, according to former President and CIA director George H.W. Bush, "unleashed a bunch of untutored little jerks out there"), emergency detention plans had been in place since the 1950s, without incident. Americans have not been herded into camps since World War II, so why worry about it now?
For some, the answer comes in the form of yet another government contract awarded to Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown & Root to build "temporary detention facilities" in case of an "immigration emergency." Reminiscent of Rex 84, which was conducted on the premise of preparing for "an influx of immigrants," there is reason to believe that hoards of poor, tired immigrants are not the true concern. As Tom Hennessy of the Press-Telegram recently pointed out, "there already are thousands of beds in place at various U.S. locations for the purpose of housing illegal immigrants." So what else might these centers be used for?
Given predictions that another terror attack is all but certain, it seems far more likely that the centers would be used for post-911-type detentions of immigrants rather than a sudden deluge. "Almost certainly this is preparation for a roundup after the next 9/11 for Mid-Easterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters," Daniel Ellsberg remarked. "They've already done this on a smaller scale, with the 'special registration' detentions of immigrant men from Muslim countries, and with Guantanamo." As it turns out, immigrants aren't the only concern. As a news brief in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a contract worth up to $385 million for building temporary immigration detention centers to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root. KBR would build the centers for the Homeland Security Department in case of an unexpected influx of immigrants or to house people after a natural disaster or for new programs that require additional detention space, the company said.
Hurricane Katrina gave Americans a glimpse of how a natural disaster scenario might play out. John Brinkerhoff, one of the FEMA officials behind the Reagan-era martial law and internment directives who "planned for the detention of at least 21 million American Negroes in assembly centers or relocation camps" began defending the Pentagon's desire to deploy troops on American streets in 2002, and sure enough, after Hurricane Katrina, Blackwater mercenaries were brought in to police the streets of New Orleans -- as soldiers were instructed to "shoot to kill" looters. Brinkerhoff also told PBS that, "The United States itself is now for the first time since the War of 1812 a theater of war. That means that we should apply, in my view, the same kind of command structure in the United States that we apply in other theaters of war."
Which brings us to the KBR spokesman's final statement regarding "new programs that require additional detention space." What might these new programs be? Do they have anything to do with the post-9/11 suggestions for forced quarantines or internment camps? Will America's new "secret laws" come into play? Might these "new programs" have anything to do with the contingencies Oliver North prepared for? Inquiring minds want to know.

Long excerpt but it's a long piece. (Not too long.) If you're not outraged today and still wonder why I am, read it an maybe you'll see why. Maybe you'll be outraged as well?
(I know many members are outraged by nonsense about "snow" on news and other non-news reports wasting everyone's time.) Or just note the first item in this entry. Pretty outrageous.

Now, here's an Action Alert that Rod passed on regarding the FCC issue:

File a comment with the FCC

Cable TV and the major telecom companies, while competing for your
business, are united in trying to do away with local public access
television and the right of cities and towns to negotiate fair deals with these
companies. These multi-year deals, called franchises, are the basis of
the PEG system - the Public, Educational and Government channels that
these cable/telecom companies must provide to cities where they do

Companies like Verizon, AT&T (formerly SBC Global), Comcast and Time
Warner hope to hike their profits while at the same time doing away with
any public interest or pubic access obligations to the cities and towns
where the operate.

Choose a link below and follow the simple instructions -

the deadline for comments is end of day Monday February 13!

An important FCC proceeding is underway that could well impact the
future for community access media.

Please take a few moments now and make public comments - and ask every
supporter you know to please join our cause.

Keep Community Media Local!

For cable access organizations, producers and access supporters there
are three excellent sites available to choose from:

Access organizations =

Access producers & friends =

General public & other allies =

The e-mail address for this site is

Post corrected for fonts.