Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Democracy Now: Goodman in Qatar, State of the Word; Center for Constitutional Rights, Coretta Scott King, Barbara Lee

Body of Coretta Scott King To Return To Atlanta Today
And the body of Coretta Scott King is expected to return from Mexico today to her family's home in Atlanta. Scott-King -- the widow of Martin Luther King Junior -- died Monday at the age of 78. She had been in Mexico seeking treatment for ovarian cancer. In Georgia, flags at state buildings were flown at half-staff Tuesday while hundreds of people gathered at her husband's tomb to pay tribute. A funeral service is expected later this week.

Polls Show Dropping Support For Bush Policies, Leadership
On the eve of President Bush's speech, polls continued to show a hardening public opposition to his policies and leadership. A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has found just 25% of Americans believe Bush should take the lead in setting national policy. Close to 50% would prefer Congress. Bush's job-approval rating remains at 39%. Just 38% believe the President is "honest and straightforward", down from 50% one year ago.
Bill Would Raise Premiums, Cut Medical Services For Millions of Lower-Class
The poll also found health care remains one of the foremost issues on the minds of Americans, with three-fourths saying increasing access and lowering costs is a "absolute priority" for 2006. But a new government study has found that a White House-backed Congressional budget bill -- the Deficit Reduction Act --- would increase health costs and cut medical services for millions of low-income Americans. The study -- carried out by the Congressional Budget Office -- predicts the bill will impose new or higher premiums on 13 million low-income Americans. The premiums will affect services including doctor's visits and hospital care. Under the bill, states could end Medicaid coverage for people who fail to pay premiums after 60 days. Because of these new premiums, the report predicts, "some beneficiaries would not apply for Medicaid, would leave the program or would become ineligible due to nonpayment . . . About 60 percent of those losing coverage would be children."
On prescription drug coverage, the study finds that the bill would increase drug costs for 20 million low-income people over the next ten years. The report said one-third of this number would be children, and close to half would be below the poverty level.
Overall, cuts to Medicaid and Medicare account for half of the budget bill's $99 billion dollars in spending cuts. Because of the new fees, 80% percent of the government's savings would come from the cutting of medical services it would it no longer have to pay for. The budget bill is expected to go before the House today.
Suicide Bomber Kills 8 In Iraq
In Iraq, a suicide bomber attacked a crowded street in Baghdad earlier today. At least 8 people were killed and 65 people wounded.

The above four items are from today's Democarcy Now! Headlines and were selected by Markus, Durham Gal, Francisco and Wil. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for February 1, 2006

- Bush Delivers State of The Union Address Short on Specifics
- Cindy Sheehan Arrested At Bush's Address
- Polls Show Dropping Support For Bush Policies, Leadership
- Bill Would Raise Premiums, Cut Medical Services For Millions
- Samuel Alito Sworn Into Supreme Court After Senate Vote
- Suicide Bomber Kills 8 In Iraq
- Captors Demand German Government Cut Ties To Iraq
- Body of Coretta Scott King To Return To Atlanta Today

Los Titulares de Hoy: Democracy Now!'s daily news summary translated into Spanish

Bush Delivers Sixth State of The Union

President Bush delivered his sixth State of the Union address at a time when he is facing some of the lowest approval ratings of his presidency. With his address, Bush hoped to lift his political standing and give a boost to his Republican allies in Congress who will be facing tough mid-term elections in November. However, the speech was noticeable for its absence of grand proposals to address the many challenges that the country faces. Among his few proposals, Bush called for a 75% reduction of the United States' dependence on Middle Eastern oil -- despite the fact oil from the region accounts for only 11% of the country's fuel imports. [includes rush transcript]

International Roundtable On State of The Union, State of The World

A roundtable of top international journalists reacts to Bush's State of the Union address, and gives us their take on the state of affairs in their respective countries and around the world. We're joined by Andres Izarra, President of the newly-launched Latin American television network TeleSUR; Alain Gresh, Chief Editor of France's Le Monde Diplomatique; and Abdul Bari Atwan, Editor in Chief at Al-Quds Al Arabi - a leading, London-based newspaper on the Middle East.

Micah and Eddie both noted "CCR's Responses to State of the Union Defenses of the NSA Surveillance Program" (Center for Constitutional Rights):

The administration has offered a number of arguments in defense of its warrantless NSA surveillance program, which CCR is challenging in a pending lawsuit in federal court, Center for Constitutional Rights v. Bush. We expect that the President will offer many of the following arguments to the country in his State of the Union address, and we offer the following responses:
Getting wiretap orders through the FISA Court in national security cases is too slow a process; the NSA Program allows the government to put wiretaps in place more quickly

FISA allows the government to put surveillance in place first, and go to Court for retroactive approval afterwards. The government has up to 72 hours to go to the Court in such emergency situations. The existing process places no limits whatsoever on the speed with which the government can put a wiretap in place.

The administration has claimed that the government needs to take time to carefully review the factual basis for such wiretaps before even using the emergency procedures, lest the Court reject the application after the fact. This concern is disingenuous, because the FISA Court almost never denies wiretap orders-the Court didn't turn down a single wiretap request in the first 23 years of its existence. From 1995 to 2004, the government made 10,617 applications and had only four rejected.

The "probable cause" standard that must be met to issue a FISA wiretap order is too burdensome; the government should be able to proceed under a lesser "reasonable suspicion" standard

FISA does not require probable cause that a surveillance target has participated in a crime; it only requires probable cause that a target is an agent of a foreign political or terrorist organization. Again, this diminished form of "probable cause" has never been a hard standard for the government to meet: from 1995 to 2004, the government made 10,617 applications to the FISA Court and had only four rejected.

More significantly, in June, 2002, Republican Senator Michael DeWine of Ohio introduced a bill (S.2659) that would "modify the standard of proof for issuance of [FISA] orders ... from probable cause to reasonable suspicion." The Justice Department said in a position statement that "the Administration at this time is not prepared to support" the DeWine amendment. The Justice Department refused to support the amendment because it had no evidence that FISA was hindering its efforts to get the warrants it needed, and because it feared that such wiretaps might violate the Fourth Amendment and thus jeopardize any prosecutions based on such tainted evidence.

Whatever standard is applied, only review by a court can ensure that the administration does not spy on ordinary citizens, lawyers, or political opponents of its policies.

The President has said that if details of the Program become public or are passed into law by Congress, "The enemy will think 'Here's what they do-adjust.'"

Terrorists already know the government is trying to listen in on their communications-the hijackers took elaborate precautions against surveillance even before 9/11, when the nation was not yet on permanent alert.

It makes no difference to al Qaeda whether they are being wiretapped with a warrant or without a warrant. That's only important to the people for whom oversight and accountability of government officials matter-the American public.

Congress implicitly authorized this surveillance when it passed the authorization to use force in Afghanistan (the "AUMF")

Congress made slight adjustments to the wiretapping statutes in December 2001 (extending the period for retroactive approval of wiretaps from 24 to 72 hours), just a few weeks after passing the AUMF. Congress would not have needed to do so if it intended to authorize wholesale surveillance with the AUMF.

In his December 19, 2005 Press Briefing, Attorney General Gonzales said the administration thought about asking Congress for approval of changes to the FISA statute to make the NSA program legal, but they did not ask Congress for permission because they thought Congress would not grant it. It is disingenuous for the administration to say on the one hand that Congress implicitly approved the NSA Program while also saying that they thought Congress would not have approved of it explicitly.

The President has said "not one lawmaker asked me to stop" the surveillance program. Why did Congress acquiesce?

It didn't. Only a few Congressional leaders and select committee members were briefed, and, more importantly, they were briefed alone, without their counsel or legislative staffers present. These conditions guaranteed that they would feel constrained from opposing the program. At the same time, by informing legislators in even this threadbare fashion, the administration made it much less likely that those legislators would feel free to criticize the program once its details became public.

We would have caught the hijackers if this program has been in place before 9/11

The NSA knew that 9/11 hijackers Khalid al-Midhair and Nawaf al-Hamzi were in the United States (in San Diego) prior to the attacks because of a legal wiretap it had on an al Qaeda safe house in Yemen. But-as then-NSA head General Hayden admitted-the NSA never bothered to provide the information to law enforcement agencies because it didn't appreciate its significance.

Law enforcement failed to catch the San Diego hijackers because of a failure to communicate and share information between intelligence agencies, not because the wiretapping laws were too strict.

FISA stood in the way of getting a warrant to search "Twentieth Hijacker" Zacharias Moussaoui's laptop before he was arrested (and well before 9/11)

In the first months after 9/11, the administration claimed that FBI agent Colleen Rowley wanted a FISA warrant to search Zacharias Moussaoui's computer, but she could not obtain one because FBI had no evidence to link him to a "recognized terrorist organization."

This was simply not what the law required at the time Rowley sought the warrant: in testimony in a Sept. 24, 2002 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, FBI officials admitted that they had gotten bad legal advice. They thought they needed to link Moussaoui to a to a designated terrorist organization, but that was wrong under the law then in place: FISA allowed a warrant to issue if Moussaoui was an agent of any group making preparations for terrorism, regardless of whether it was formally designated as a terrorist organization by the State Department.

If al Qaeda is calling you, the government should be able to listen to the call

If the government had any evidence at all to back up such a claim, it could put a wiretap in place and seek FISA Court approval after the fact under the law. What the government is really claiming is the power to put a wiretap in place where there is no evidence at all that a person on the line is a member of al Qaeda.

The program is legal.

This program is unquestionably illegal-Congress has made all electronic surveillance outside the Wiretap Act and FISA a felony.

Many people within the administration felt this program was illegal. It has been widely reported that Deputy Attorney General James Comey refused to sign off on reauthorization of the Program in March 2004, when John Ashcroft was in the hospital, and White House officials were forced to visit Ashcroft in his hospital bed to seek reapproval.

The President has inherent power to conduct warrantless surveillance to gather foreign intelligence.

The federal appellate court cases the administration cites for this principle are all cases decided under the standards applicable before Congress created FISA (United States v. Clay; United States v. Brown; United States v. Butenko; United States v. Buck; and United States v. Truong). So are the historical precedents: Lincoln's telegraph wiretaps during the civil war, or FDR's wiretaps during World War II.

FISA was intended to be comprehensive, covering all electronic surveillance of foreign powers and their agents, and FISA makes all surveillance outside its terms a felony, including the NSA program.

Again, that's from the Center for Constitutional Rights. That's their rebuttal in full.

While on the topic of last night, Brandy steers us to Cindy Sheehan's "What Really Happened" (Common Dreams):

I had just sat down and I was warm from climbing 3 flights of stairs back up from the bathroom so I unzipped my jacket. I turned to the right to take my left arm out, when the same officer saw my shirt and yelled; "Protester." He then ran over to me, hauled me out of my seat and roughly (with my hands behind my back) shoved me up the stairs. I said something like "I'm going, do you have to be so rough?" By the way, his name is Mike Weight.
The officer ran with me to the elevators yelling at everyone to move out of the way. When we got to the elevators, he cuffed me and took me outside to await a squad car. On the way out, someone behind me said, "That's Cindy Sheehan." At which point the officer who arrested me said: "Take these steps slowly." I said, "You didn't care about being careful when you were dragging me up the other steps." He said, "That's because you were protesting." Wow, I get hauled out of the People's House because I was, "Protesting."
I was never told that I couldn't wear that shirt into the Congress. I was never asked to take it off or zip my jacket back up. If I had been asked to do any of those things...I would have, and written about the suppression of my freedom of speech later. I was immediately, and roughly (I have the bruises and muscle spasms to prove it) hauled off and arrested for "unlawful conduct."
After I had my personal items inventoried and my fingers printed, a nice Sgt. came in and looked at my shirt and said, "2245, huh? I just got back from there."
I told him that my son died there. That's when the enormity of my loss hit me. I have lost my son. I have lost my First Amendment rights. I have lost the country that I love. Where did America go? I started crying in pain.
What did Casey die for? What did the 2244 other brave young Americans die for? What are tens of thousands of them over there in harm's way for still? For this? I can't even wear a shrit that has the number of troops on it that George Bush and his arrogant and ignorant policies are responsible for killing.

Heath notes Jeffrey St. Clair's "The Good Life of Stew Albert" (CounterPunch):

As one of the creative directors of the Yippies, Stew Albert helped to script the 60s. Stew's life is a joyous rebuttal to the slurs of mean-spirited bigots such as David Horowitz and Newt Gingrich that the 60s counterculture unleashed a moral rot at core of American society.
Of course, Stew was the true moralist. And the prime moral virtue was to live honestly. He had seen his own government spy on him and his family for no justifiable cause, politicians betray their constituents, cops beat and gas demonstrators on the streets of Chicago, university presidents summon National Guard troops onto campuses to abuse and kill students, and generals repeatedly lie about the war in Vietnam, where 54,000 young Americans and 2 million Vietnamese died.
The Yippies thrived on the exposure of moral hypocrisy. Their creative mischief made radical politics fun. The Yippies proved to be more effective than the dour pronouncements of Tom Hayden or the trustfund bombers in the Weather Underground. The Yippies didn't need George Lakoff to tell them how to "reframe" an issue. They learned from the Situationists as well as vaudeville acts and Borscht Belt comedy routines, from the Marx cousins, Karl and Groucho. And because of that their legacy lives in Earth First and Greenpeace. The chaotic carnival of protest that overswept the streets of Seattle during the WTO meetings owed much to the Yippie brain trust of Albert, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin.
Stew outlived his colleagues in mayhem, Rubin and Hoffman, by 20 years, spending most of that time in Portland. But he didn't retreat from the world. Unlike the repulsive Gingrich, who divorced his wife while she was on a hospital bed being treated for cancer, Stew and his wife Judy lived together for 40 years. Their's was the fullest of unions, as lovers, political partners, parents of their beautiful and brilliant daughter Jessica, political partners and citizens in Tom Paine's full-fleshed sense of the word.

For the next few highlights, we're focusing on Coretta Scott King's passing. The following highlights were noted by Keesha, Gerry, Lyle, KeShasn, Brenda, Rod, Kara and Lynda.

First, Earl Ofari Hutchinson's "Coretta Scott King was More Than Just Dr. King's Wife" (CounterPunch):

"I certainly appreciate your concern, and I would appreciate anything that you can do to help."
That was the dignified but worried request for help that Coretta Scott King made in a phone conversation with then Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy. There was good reason for worry and the plea for help. In early 1959, her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was sentenced to four months of hard labor at Georgia's notorious Reidsville State Prison after being arrested on a trumped up traffic warrant and for violating probation.
The second charge stemmed from King's earlier arrest at a sit-in demonstration. Coretta was deeply pained that King might not make it out of Reidsville alive. There had been rumors and threats of foul play against him. During the tense days of King's imprisonment, Coretta had frantically worked the phones trying to get any help she could for King's release.
At the time, Kennedy was locked in a tight White House race with Republican Vice President Richard Nixon. Kennedy made the call partly out of sincere concern for King, and partly with an eye on the black vote. Coretta's efforts paid off for King, and Kennedy, and sunk Nixon. The Democrats turned the call into a giant public relations coup. Kennedy's action was credited with tipping large numbers of blacks toward the Democrats, Nixon, the early odds on favorite to win the presidency, lost by a narrow margin. King was soon released unharmed, and the civil rights movement gained greater steam and vigor in the next couple of years. Coretta's dogged determination to save her husband, energized the civil rights fight, and changed the course of a presidential election, and race relations in America.
It was fitting that Kennedy's life affirming and politically profound phone call was made to Coretta. In December 1955, she and King anxiously kept watch at the front window of their home in Montgomery, Alabama to make sure that there were no black riders on the buses. She stood, walked and cheered arm in arm with him at countless civil rights marches, demonstrations and rallies.

Next, Cedric's "Coretta Scott King, 1927-2006" (Cedric's Big Mix):

It is so strange and distant to think of Mrs. King not being in this world with us any longer. I grew up hearing about her, reading about her and, honestly, kind of feeling her. There's a sadness that sort of falls today and it's really sad.
Dr. King was taken from us before people my age were even born but we had Mrs. King and she just always seemed like this smiling, kind giant, so strong and so comforting. They killed her husband and she still found her way to love the world. Growing up, I got angry and mad about Dr. King being assassinated and I'm sure she did as well. But she was just this ocean of gentleness.
You knew she could stand up to anyone and would do it. But she just radiated sweetness and kindness. I can't believe she's gone.

Rebecca's "mrs. king" (Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude):

i'd planned to take care of several things today but i just ended up sitting on the sofa and at some point, it was pointed out to me that it was nighfall and that i was sitting in the dark.
shortly after that, the phone rang. it had rung all day apparently.
i was really out of it.
but it was
betty and my reaction is nothing compared to her's. coretta scott king was probably betty's greatest hero outside of her own family. by the way, big thank you to betty for blogging here on friday. she did an excellent job.
she was planning to post and had 2 different views on it. 1 was coretta scott king carried on so she should blog. the other was that she wasn't in the mood to be funny.
i asked her what she really wanted to do and she said she really felt like crawling under the covers as soon as she got her kids to bed. i think that's what she should do.
[. . .]

'partners in marriage' is the jargon we like to bandy about now days. but the fact is coretta scott king was a partner in mlk's work. she was involved in the fight for equality before she met mlk and she continued to fight after he passed. they both believed in equality and they both fought for it. she continued the work and . . . what do you say?
classy woman, strong fighter, trail blazer and inspiration. rest peacefully mrs. king.

Mike's "Coretta Scott King, Halliburton, Bully Boy & gatekeeping" (Mikey Likes It!):

This was very sad news today. People would start to talk about it on campus and just stop. One of my professors said that was because she did carry on MLK's legacy and kept it alive so it's like losing her and also losing a part of him. She was a really strong and brave woman and I think anyone with any sense at all feels the loss today.

Finally, Elaine's "She was as actively involved and concerned when we met as she is now" (Like Maria Said Paz):

Almost a year ago, Brenda noted Coretta Scott King's grace. I think that captures her gift beautifully. Everything she did, she brought grace to it. Both in the sense of doing it with considerable taste and in a spiritual sense. This is the woman who had to face a nation when her husband was assassinated. She inspired then and she continued to inspire. MLK was obviously a strong personality, as any leader has to be, but Coretta Scott King proved she was a strong woman and she personified the legacy.
I could never live up to the standard that she set, but I can take inspiration from it. She truly inspired a nation. There are many fallen leaders who have to wait years for history to revist their legacy. Coretta Scott King's strength and grace prevented that from happening to MLK and don't kid that quite a few would have preferred he be forgotten. I can remember the arguments against a national holiday (Dick Cheney, in fact, was opposed to a national holiday in honor of Dr. King).
She obviously believed in his work and believed in keeping it alive. (Dr. King said she was committed to the struggle before he met her.) History didn't have to rescue Dr. King because Coretta Scott King kept the dream (and the fight) alive. The world is a much better place because she was in it and that's probably the best thing we can say about anyone.

Last night, a tree fell. Or at least silence did. Arianna Huffington offers the details of the great yawn in "The Democratic Response: My Worst Fears Realized" (The Huffington Post):

All my worst fears about the Democratic response to the State of the Union address being given by Virginia Gov Kaine were realized tonight when he completely failed to take on the president on his greatest vulnerability -- the war in Iraq. "Second guessing is not a strategy," Bush said -- but Kaine didn't even bother to second-guess.
Instead, he told us "together, we can do better" (I swear he did!) and that "our greatest need is to heal our partisan wounds." Now if I can only figure out how to heal these fresh wounds on my wrists, we'll be fine. At least, together we'll be fine.

But there was life in the Democratic Party. Kyle notes "Barbara Lee and Progressive Caucus Offer Alternative state of the Union, Concrete Plans for Change in America"
(Lee's official site)

"I would like to thank my Progressive Caucus Co-Chair, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, for her courage and her leadership. I would also like to thank our friends at The Nation and the Institute for Policy Studies for all of their work in helping make this event a reality and demonstrate that there is a clear alternative to the corruption, the abuse of power and the indifference to working families that has come to dominate Washington under Republican rule.
"Our nation faces a crisis, and we stand at a crossroads. Will we continue to be a nation of laws, or a nation where the executive claims the privilege of lawlessness? Will we be nation run for the benefit of big corporations and wealthy donors, or a nation of opportunity, where people who work hard are rewarded and everyone has a shot at the American dream?
"Tonight, the President will take to the stage to try to put a good face on a year of failures. One thing you won't hear him talk about, however, is the price of his reckless, unnecessary war in Iraq. You won't see him include the cost for the war in the budget that he submits to Congress next week either. You see, the President doesn't have the courage to level with the American people about just how long his "stay-the-course" policy will keep us in Iraq, and just how much it will cost. One nobel prize winning economist has projected that the war may cost as much as $2 trillion. If the President believes in his policy, he should spell out how long it will take and what it will cost, and ask the American people to sacrifice for it. I believe our continued occupation of Iraq undermines our security and our standing, which I have joined Congresswoman Woolsey in calling to bring our troops home, and why I have introduced legislation to prevent the establishment of permanent military bases in Iraq.
"Hurricane Katrina was a shock and a wake up call for our nation. Not only was it clear evidence of the incompetence of an administration that prioritizes patronage and politics over real policymaking, hurricane Katrina exposed the moral bankruptcy of the so-called "ownership society."
"Since President Bush took office, the number of poor people in America has grown by 17 percent, growing at a rate of more than 1 million each year. In 2002-2003 the number of children alone living in extreme poverty grew by half a million.
"This is the real state of the so-called "ownership society." And it is unacceptable. The Bush administration's zeal for cutting taxes for the wealthy while cutting the programs that reach the most vulnerable helped lay the groundwork for this disaster.
"Ideas have consequences, and the aftermath of Katrina has demonstrated the bankruptcy of the Bush administration's idea of the role of government. It was not simply the failure to respond to the hurricane in a coherent or competent manner, it was the tragic failure to acknowledge the massive structural crisis that poverty and inequality pose for our nation and the stubborn refusal to conceive of any constructive role for our government in addressing it.
"That is why I have introduced a package of three bills designed to make eradicating poverty a national priority. The first calls on the President for leadership, asking him to submit to Congress his plan for eradicating poverty. The second calls on Congress for accountability, and would require the Congressional Budget Office to report on the poverty impact of legislation pending before Congress. The third calls for establishing priorities, and would roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest five percent of Americans to help pay for poverty alleviation.
"According to the conventional wisdom, the Republicans may have a massive problem with corruption, and the President may have a problem with the abuse of power, with an unnecessary, immoral war in Iraq and his failed response to hurricane Katrina, but there really isn't any alternative vision coming from the Democrats.
"Well, we are here today to tell you that the conventional wisdom is wrong. The Congressional Progressive Caucus is the largest and fastest growing caucus here on Capitol Hill. Among our 62 members are 10 members who will become committee chairs, and 35 members who will become subcommittee chairs when the Democrats retake the House of Representatives.
"The Congressional Progressive Caucus has clear ideas on how we can move America forward, and restore a government that is worthy of the public trust. Rather than list them all, I direct your attention to the most recent issue of The Nation, where 21 members of our Caucus spell out practical solutions for issues ranging from healthcare and protecting our environment to immigration, good government and getting out of Iraq.
"These pragmatic proposals represent more than a list of policy fixes. They represent a set of core principles that stand in stark contrast to the cynicism and corruption of the Bush administration and Republican controlled Congress.
"In the face of a culture of corruption, we represent a deep belief in serving the public trust.
"In the face of abuse of power, we represent the democratic insistence on accountability, checks and balances and the rule of law.
"In the face of a reckless unilateralism that has squandered our nation's standing and left us alone and vulnerable in the world, we represent robust international leadership.
"In the face of an indifference that abandoned the poor people of New Orleans and America long before hurricane Katrina tore back the curtain, we represent the belief that every American deserves the opportunity to take part in the American Dream."

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