Thursday, March 30, 2006

Democracy Now: Chellie Pingree, Edmund L. Andrews; Ruth Conniff speaks what others can't

Michael Berg Announces Congressional Run
In other news, Michael Berg, whose son Nick Berg was beheaded after he was kidnapped in Iraq, has announced
a bid for Congress in Delaware. Michael Berg has repeatedly blamed the Bush administration's invasion and occupation of Iraq for his son's death. He said he was approached by representatives of the Democratic Party but will run with the Green Party because: "the Democrats have the money to get the message out, but they have the wrong message."

Puerto Rican Independence Figure Arrested in San Juan
And a major figure in the Puerto Rican independence movement has been arrested in San Juan. On Tuesday, FBI agents arrested Antonio Camacho Negron for allegedly violating the terms of his parole. The arrest comes just months after independence leader Filiberto Ojeda-Rios was killed in a federal raid.

Iraqi PM Criticizes US Over Resignation Pressure
In news from Iraq, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has lashed out at growing US pressure to block him from serving a second term as prime minister. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has asked Iraqi Shiite politicians to seek the withdrawal of al-Jaafari's nomination for a second term. In an interview with the New York Times, al-Jaafari said: "[There's] concern among the Iraqi people that the democratic process is being threatened."

Kidnapped Reporter Jill Carroll Freed in Iraq
After nearly three months in captivity, kidnapped U.S. reporter Jill Carroll has been released. Carroll is a freelance reporter working for the Christian Science Monitor in Iraq. She was seized in January outside the offices of a prominent Sunni politician in Baghdad. In a brief television interview in Baghdad, Carroll said she is in good condition and had been treated well by her captors. Her captors freed her by leaving her in a street near the offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party. She walked inside, and people there called US officials. Although her captors threatened twice in videotapes to kill her, Carroll said they never hit her or threatened to do so. Carroll said she was kept in a room with a window and a shower, but she did not know where she was. She went on to say: "I'm just happy to be free. I want to be with my family." On Wednesday, Jill Carroll's sister, Katie Carroll, had read a statement on Arab television pleading for her sister's safe release. There had been no word from Carroll's captors in nearly two months. They had demanded the release of all women detainees in Iraqi prisons. Five out of an estimated nine women prisoners were released in January.

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Third Party, Sabina, Kayla and Susan. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for March 30, 2006

- Kidnapped Reporter Jill Carroll Freed in Iraq
- Iraqi PM Criticizes US Over Resignation Pressure
- Taylor Returned To Liberia to Face War Crimes Charges
- Afghan Christian Convert Granted Political Asylum in Italy
- Ahmed Omar Abu Ali Sentenced to 30-Year Term
- Senate Approves Lobbying Bill, Rejects Independent Oversight
- Puerto Rican Independence Figure Arrested in San Juan

Kidnapped Reporter Jill Carroll Freed in Baghdad

Jill Carroll is free. The freelance reporter was kidnapped nearly three months ago in Baghdad. In a television interview shortly after her release, Carroll said she is in good condition and had been treated well by her captors. She went on to say, "I'm just happy to be free. I want to be with my family." We talk with one of her friends. [includes rush transcript]

Senate Debate Over Immigration Reform Heats Up in Washington

The Senate begins debate today on legislation to overhaul the nation's immigration laws. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that includes enforcement measures, provisions for a guest-worker program, and a way for undocumented workers way to work toward citizenship. We speak with the Director of Immigration Policy Research at the National Council of La Raza. [includes rush transcript]

Abramoff Sentenced to 70 Months in Prison As Senate Passes Lobbying Reform Bill That Excludes Campaign Finance

The Senate has overwhelmingly approved imposing new rules governing the relations between lawmakers and lobbyists. The ninety to eight vote came just hours after former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced to nearly six years in jail. We speak with Chellie Pingree, president of Common Cause. [includes rush transcript]

Report Exposes Telecom Industry's Astroturf Lobbying Groups

Common Cause on Tuesday released a new report exposing "Astroturf" lobbying groups and other allies created by the telecommunications industry to pressure lawmakers to enact industry-friendly policies as Congress debates critical issues worth billions of dollars to the industry. [includes rush transcript]

How Lobbyists Helped Secure Billions in Taxpayer Subsidies For Big Oil Companies Despite Record Profits

A new report by Government Accountability Office estimates the oil and gas industry will be able to avoid paying between 20 and 80 billion dollars in royalties to the government. Industry lobbyists helped secure a provision passed by Congress 10 years ago subsidizing oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. We speak with Edmund Andrews, the New York Times reporter who exposed the story. [includes rush transcript]

In Iraq, violence and chaos continue. The BBC notes that "eight workers at Iraq's largest oil refinery in the northern town of Baiji" were killed in an ambush by gunmen.
At a security checkpoint in Baghdad, Kays Juma, an Australian resident and professor, was killed by corporate security firm Unity Resources Group which "has issued a statement expressing its deepest sympathy at what happened." Kays Juma's wife Barbara is returning to Australia "to be with her children." Unity Resource Group is a "Dbuai-based company" that is attempting to expand "into health and medical services." Speeding cars, guns blasts, drive bys? Yes, according to the Associated Press. A lawyer was the victim of the drive-by "as she got out of a taxi in Basra" while in Baghdad, "a police commando" walking outside his home was also the victim of a drive-by shooting. (Both died.)

Polly notes the BBC's "Canada to decide on US deserter:"

Canada's refugee board is to hear the asylum plea of a US soldier who fled to Canada to avoid serving in Iraq.
Josh Key served as an explosives expert in Iraq for eight months. He deserted to Canada with his family in 2004.
Mr Key, who faces a court martial if returned to the US, says he refuses to fight in a war he regards as immoral and illegal.
About 20 US soldiers have applied for asylum in Canada. Two have already had their applications rejected.

We have another story (on another war resister) and we'll save that for this evening.
Instead, Lloyd and Shonna both noted Ruth Conniff's "Dems Can't Win Standing Still" (Ruth Conniff's Weekly Column, The Progressive):

A lot of smart people in Washington are getting very excited about Bush's low poll numbers, as well as new polls that show a possible landslide by Democrats in 2006. There's no question that public sentiment is turning against the President. But Democrats may want to temper this spring's optimism with a cautious reminder of how it felt to be carried away by Internet buzz and exit polls on the last Presidential election day. The really big question, it seems to me, is whether the Democrats think they can stand still and benefit from a landslide anti-Bush vote in 2006. That strikes me as highly unlikely. Sooner or later, they've got to take a position on Iraq, if they want to benefit from anti-war sentiment. They’ve got to take a position on NSA spying and on political corruption. Muted lip service isn't going to do it.

Shonna noted that while Conniff argues for action, Eric Alterman argues for nothing. Ignore withdrawal! There is no withdrawal! It will hurt election chances! You don't how the media will distort any statement the Dems make! So talk strategy! Not withdrawal!

"The American people were lied into an illegal war. Too many lives have been lost. 2327 Americans dead is more than enough. We're bringing our sons and daughters home."

That's pretty clear cut and would probably get out despite the inherent problems with today's media. But Alterman says (lisps) "NO!" while channeling the Third Way. I'm really not sure why Alterman's allowed to note that org in passing? That requires identification.

"Third Way? That sounds interesting. What is it?"

It's DLC and apparently since Christopher Hitchens is no longer around, to regularly foul the pages of The Nation, the soft-minded Alterman fills the spot. When DLC front groups are noted, they need to be identified. There's no excuse for not doing so. This isn't a "free speech" issue. Alterman's been allowed to write one idiotic column after another for years. (Just as he's been able to go on Charlie Rose and whimper or go on The Majority Report and think he's being "cute" when everyone listening is thinking, "This lisper really thinks he comes off like a tough talker.")

Responsible journalism requires that readers are informed when Alterman's fronting for the DLC. The whole column is DLC so it may difficult to determine what needs noting. It's very simple, when he's reporting on an event sponsored by the DLC, the magazine needs to note it's a DLC event. That leaves Alterman's free speech intact and provides confused readers with needed info.

"Didn't The Nation just editorialize that they refused to 'support any candidate for national office who does not make a speedy end to this war a major compaign issue'?" Yes, it did editorialize that last year. Alterman's opinion is not the magazine's. The DLC's position is never the magazine. When the DLC pops up, worked in by columnists with their own ties to it, the organizations and the events need to be disclosed.

Ruth Conniff's writing about the mood of the country, Alterman's writing about an out of think tank without identifying it as DLC. Atlerman's got nothing to back him up (and has a curious look at the 2004 election/candidate) which goes to show that gasbags come in all shapes, sizes and speech defects. Read Conniff, skip Alterman.

Think I'm too hard on the most ineffectual public speaker? The one most in need of speech lessons/therapy? Savor this by Brian Morton:

And in the media, the biggest whiner of them all is MSNBC blogger and The Nation media columnist Eric Alterman. Priggish, preening, name-dropping, and the world's biggest Bruce Springsteen sycophant, he's the kind of liberal that makes my teeth hurt. When right-wing loons look for effete East Coast snobs to portray as their limousine-liberal straw men, Alterman, who never lets go of a slight (he spent long blog-column inches demanding equal space for a reply to the Boston Globe's editorial page editor for an insult the paper dealt him), is too good to be true. He barely acknowledges his own wrongs, and even compounds slights to others--take, for example, his battle earlier this year with former City Paper managing editor/current New York Observer media reporter Tom Scocca, in which Alterman not only refused to acknowledge his mistake on the facts, but kept misspelling Scocca's name in kvetching about his work at the Observer.

That's from Morton's "The Wuss Party" (Baltimore City Paper) and, just a reminder, tonight is indymedia roundup.

Doug notes Shayana Kadidal's "SPYING SMOKESCREENS: An Analysis of the DeWine Spy Legislation" (Center for Constitutional Rights):

Several more U.S. Senators just entered the competition over who can build the largest smokescreen for President Bush's illegal warrantless wiretapping. On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee considers Senator Mike DeWine's legislation to essentially legalize the NSA domestic spying program. The bill is cosponsored by Olympia Snowe and Chuck Hagel, two Republican Senators who are often lauded by the Washington Press corps for "challenging" President Bush, but their new bill does not offer any challenge to the President or his illegal domestic surveillance.
As one of the lead attorneys in a federal case suing Bush for illegal spying, Center for Constitutional Rights v. Bush, I am particularly concerned about the DeWine legislation.
Warrantless surveillance-- that is, electronic surveilance without review of some kind by a disinterested judge, either before or immediately after the wiretap is put in place -- is, with very limited exceptions, currently illegal and punishable as a felony. The DeWine bill would legallize warrantless surveillance of international calls and emails whenever the president decides going to the court established by FISA is too much trouble. Periodic after-the fact briefings by the President to small committees of Congressional leaders would replace judicial oversight entirely.
Both the U.S. Constitution and federal law currently forbid spying on Americans without a warrant, but this bill would purport to legalize such surveillance when it targets people on a "Surveillance List." How do you get on this list?

Kadidal was interviewed by Larry Bensky during KPFA's broadcast of the NSA hearing
(as Doug noted). (Use link if you missed the broadcast to hear archived version.)

Again, indymedia roundup this evening. The e-mail address for this site is

[Shirley note: Typos corrected "NO!" added.]