Monday, February 20, 2006

Other Items

After two months of insisting that President Bush did not need court approval to authorize the wiretapping of calls between the United States and suspected terrorists abroad, the administration is trying to resist pressure for judicial review while pushing for retroactive Congressional approval of the program.
The administration opened negotiations with Congress last week, but it is far from clear whether Mr. Bush will be able to fend off calls from Democrats and some Republicans for increased oversight of the eavesdropping program, which is run by the National Security Agency.

The above is from Sheryl Gay Stolberg and David E. Sanger's "Facing Pressure, White House Seeks Approval for Spying" in this morning's New York Times. Can the Bully Boy get retroactive approval for a program that's illegal? For one that's unconstitutional? That depends upon how spineless and suppine Congress is. The illustration is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts, "Spying Bully Boy is a drag" from last month. (Bully Boy's in drag, dressed up like Lily Tomlin's Ernestine as he listens in on phone calls.)

Bully Boy's on the defensive right now making noises, as Stolberg and Sanger report: "Washington is a town that says, you didn't connect the dots, and then when you do connect the dots, they say you're wrong." How long will Bully Boy play petulant? According to the article, he doesn't have all that long:

The Senate Intelligence Committee has given the administration two weeks to negotiate. If the White House does not demonstrate a good-faith effort, members say, the Democratic proposal for a full-scale inquiry will be back on the table at the panel's next meeting on March 7.

Moving from Bully Boy's illegal spying to his immoral treatment of asylum seekers, we'll note Rachel L. Swarns' "Rights Groups Criticize Speedy Deportations:"

As the Bush administration rapidly expands its efforts to detain and deport illegal immigrants, human rights groups warn that people fleeing persecution are increasingly vulnerable to being deported to their home countries.
In 2005, a bipartisan federal commission warned that some immigration officials were improperly processing asylum seekers for deportation. The commission made recommendations to ensure that the system of speedy deportations, known as expedited removal, had adequate safeguards to protect those fleeing persecution.
But one year later, only one of the commission's five recommendations has been put into effect. Meanwhile, domestic security officials have expanded the expedited removal program, in which illegal immigrants are swiftly deported without being allowed to make their case before an immigration judge.

We're dropping back to Jane Mayer's "THE MEMO: How an internal effort to ban the abuse and torture of detainees was thwarted" (The New Yorker). This is a pretty indepth article that lays out how we got to a Bully Boy world where the Constitution, the law, the Geeneva Conventions, et al didn't matter; a world where refugees from previous administrations who'd long fought to way lay Congress used 9-11 as the pretext to put in place there long wanted, long argued power grabs.

Here's a section that stands out and comes near the end so may not get as much attention as it deserves:

In fact, techniques that had been approved for use at Guantánamo were quickly transferred elsewhere. Four months after General Miller was briefed on the working-group report, the Pentagon sent him to Iraq, to advise officials there on interrogating Iraqi detainees. Miller, who arrived with a group of Guantánamo interrogators, known as the Tiger Team, later supervised all U.S.-run prisons in Iraq, including Abu Ghraib. And legal advisers to General Ricardo Sanchez, the senior U.S. commander in Iraq at the time, used the report as a reference in determining the limits of their interrogation authority, according to a Pentagon report on Abu Ghraib.

Want to still buy into the administration's phoney claim of a "few bad apples." Mayer's article details internal discussions in the administration where these policies were formulated, where critics were ignored and efforts were made to cut them out of the process without letting them know they were cut out.

Here's another section:

Mora went on, "It seemed odd to me that the actors weren’t more troubled by what they were doing." Many Administration lawyers, he said, appeared to be unaware of history. "I wondered if they were even familiar with the Nuremberg trials--or with the laws of war, or with the Geneva conventions. They cut many of the experts on those areas out. The State Department wasn’t just on the back of the bus--it was left off the bus." Mora understood that "people were afraid that more 9/11s would happen, so getting the information became the overriding objective. But there was a failure to look more broadly at the ramifications."

War crimes? That's what they are. Torture is what took place. And one wonders how a university justifies keeping John Yoo on their faculty? Yes, Yoo plays a big role in the article. He played a big role in formulating polices that shredded America's image world wide. Why he's now being allowed to teach law to students is worth pondering. Is the university aware of what he advocated for, what he argued? If so, they're endorsing it by continuing to employ him. In a nation where witch hunts are launched for academic statements, it's amazing that Yoo's non-academic statements and actions don't bother his university in the least. Yoo's not a free speech case. He worked with others to put in place a policy of torture. War crimes. And it was done hidden away from the public (Mora wondered why a public debate on these changes wasn't allowed). Someone writes an academic paper or makes an academic argument to justify torture or another illegal, immoral practice and I think, "Fool" or "Idiot." But they have their free speech rights and they can be foolish or idiotic (and others may not find them that way at all). That's our right in America. But Yoo wasn't using free speech, Yoo was part of a cabal justifying breaking the Geeneva Conventions, Congressional laws and much more. He doesn't have a free speech case. He, and others, committed war crimes. Now he's employed by an insitution of higher learning. The employment, whether the univeristy intends to be seen as such or not, is an endorsement of his actions. (His actions, not his speech.)

Democracy Now! has a reading of Zinn's A People's History of the United States today. (With Danny Glover, Marisa Tomei, Josh Brolin, Zinn himself and others.) Martha asked if we could note something, which we will. Each weekend, Maria, Francisco or Miguel utilize the Democracy Now! headlines to pull out some significant items that summarize the week's important stories. They do that in Spanish and then English to emphasize that Democracy Now! now offers their headlines in Spanish. Martha notes that the following stations are carrying the Spanish headlines:

Café Stereo, La Radio Bolivariana in Stockholm, Sweden airs headlines in Spanish M-F 2:30pm on internet -- a webcast primarily for Colombian exiles.

Free Radio Santa Cruz 101.1FM in Santa Cruz, CA airs Spanish HL M-F at 7:30 am (and occasionally on other Spanish programming). Webcast at

Radio Klara, 104.4 F.M., -- in Valencia, Spain Now airing Democracy Now! headlines in Spanish M-F 6:30am, 8:15am, 9:45am and 12:45pm. (local times in Spain)

There's an event coming up in March and we'll note that as it draws closer but a number of members are signed up for Democracy Now!'s Daily Digest which provides a summary of the day's broadcast as well as other information. (As with BuzzFlash's e-mails, there is no charge for the Daily Digest. You sign up online for it at the Democracy Now! site, just as you sign up for the heads up from BuzzFlash online at BuzzFlash.) Anytime you see something that you'd like noted, e-mail and we'll try to note it. Especially on Monday's when the program's topics are usually not scheduled ahead of time.

Let me say thank you here to Maria, Francisco and Miguel for compiling each weekend. Whomever is compiling the headlines, makes the choices on what to include. Maria uses the headlines in her classes and makes her choices based upon what prompts the most discussions from her students. Miguel and Francisco go with what in the news has gotten the most attention from their friends and family. Those are their choices and their contributions and there work is appreciated. But when the three of them decided to do it (they're on the committee that's been working almost a year -- a year in April -- to find a Spanish language site that we can provide as a link), the point was to get the word out on the fact that Democracy Now! was now offering their daily headlines in Spanish as well as English. (No headlines on today's special broadcast.) So I hope members are getting the word out on that.

These are dictated entries and there were a host of problems this morning if you're wondering about the delay in posting entries this morning. Thanks to two friends (whom I woke up when I, once again, couldn't get into Blogger/Blogspot) for taking down these entries and for reading Mayer's article over the phone to me. Again, it's available online (and in the issue that either goes onsale today or, due to the holiday, tomorrow). The article is entitled "THE MEMO: How an internal effort to ban the abuse and torture of detainees was thwarted" and also available online, in PDF format, is "The Mora Memo."

Zach wanted to note the new content from Sunday's latest edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review:

A Note to Our Readers
Editorial: No spine on no spying
TV Review: Close To Home (and floating in the toilet)
1 Book, 10 Minutes (Danny Schechter, The Death of Media)
Psst, here come the gatekeepers
Musings on the service economy

Zach wondered who was on holiday today? I hope Zach didn't panic and assume we were. (I did panic when this morning's troubles ensued.) I don't know. We didn't speak of the holiday and I didn't realize it was one (I'm stil on the road) until I was waiting on the Times to arrive. Betty had mentioned having Monday off and that she was going to attempt to get something up, so you can check her site this evening (Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man). Other than that, it wasn't anything anyone brought up. I'll try to touch base later today with everyone and, for anyone that's not taking the day off, we may attempt to do some sort of joint entry.

The e-mail address for this site is