Thursday, March 09, 2006

Democracy Now: Haifa Zangana, Shami Chakrabarti, Milan Rai, Brian Barder . . .

50 Kidnapped in Daytime Raid in Baghdad
In Iraq, 50 employees from a Sunni-led private security firm have been kidnapped in Baghdad. The men were abducted during a daytime raid by gunmen wearing police commando uniforms issued by the Interior Ministry. The Shiite-led Interior Ministry has publicly denied it OK'd the raid but the Los Angeles Times reports that sources in the ministry confirmed the gunmen were "commandos with the ministry's major crimes division." The mass kidnapping occurred less than a day after police found 18 bodies in a minibus in a Sunni area of Baghdad. All of the men had been shot or strangled.
Five Vermont Towns Back Impeachment of Bush
In Vermont, five towns have approved measures calling for the impeachment of President Bush. The votes come at a time when the talk of impeachment is increasing. On Monday the Wall Street Journal ran a lengthy article pointing out how polls show there is greater support among the public for the impeachment of President Bush than there ever was for President Clinton. In 1998, polls showed 27 percent of the country backed the impeachment of Clinton if he lied about having a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Meanwhile a recent Zogby poll showed 51 percent of the country said Congress should consider impeaching Bush if he didn't tell truth about the reasons for the Iraq war.
Pro-Choice Protests Scheduled in South Dakota
In South Dakota, pro-choice activists are planning a rally at noon today outside the Federal Courthouse in Sioux Falls to protest the state's new law outlawing most abortions. Solidarity protests are also being organized around the country. The new law makes it a felony for health providers to perform abortions -- even in cases of rape or incest -- unless a women's life is in jeopardy.
Four Arrested in Jamaica For Killing Gay AIDS Activist
In Jamaica, four people have been arrested in connection with last year's killing of the Lenford Harvey, a prominent gay AIDS activist. The 30-year-old Harvey was shot to dead in Kingston last November.
The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Joan, Trevor, Dona and LiangDemocracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):
Headlines for March 9, 2006

- 50 Kidnapped in Daytime Raid in Baghdad
- Shiites Seek Halt in Counting Deaths Caused by Militias
- State Dept Criticizes Iraq Police Force for Rights Abuses
- U.S. To Continue Planting Stories in Iraqi Press
- Protesters Greet President Bush in New Orleans
- Five Vermont Towns Back Impeachment of Bush
- Pro-Choice Protests Scheduled in South Dakota
- Over 20,000 Protest Anti-Immigrant Law in D.C.
- Four Arrested in Jamaica For Killing Gay AIDS Activist
Iraqi Novelist Haifa Zangana: U.S. Troops Must Withdraw Now

Zangana, a former prisoner under the Baathist regime in Iraq, speaks out against the occupation and increasing violence in Iraq. She also warns that hundreds of Iraqi academics have been assassinated since the war began. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Haifa Zangana, born in Iraq, imprisoned in Iraq under the Baath regime, escaped, came to Britain, and is a fierce critic of the occupation and invasion of Iraq. You write regularly for the Guardian here in Britain; also Al-Quds Al-Arabi, you have a weekly column. What about the situation now? Are you seeing a civil war or something near to it?
HAIFA ZANGANA: Well, it is, yes. We were really refusing to admit this for a long time. We thinking that Iraqi people are solid enough not to be dragged into this mayhem of killing, but it is happening. It is happening, not on the level of our neighbors killing neighbors, no, but it seems also it's kind of organized civil war. It's imposed civil war. It's almost similar to the timetable imposed by the occupation, the political process that there should be the writing of constitution at this time, there should be an election at that time, regardless of the priority of Iraqi people, because what is ignored from the beginning, from day one of the occupation or what's called liberation, Iraqi people and their priorities. So what's happening now, we're almost living into imposed with a timetable of civil war. They've been banging from day one, like asking you, "What are you? A Sunni or a Shia?" I would not dream nowadays of even giving an interview on the BBC without being asked whether I'm a Sunni and a Shia. That's never happened before occupation.
Crackdown on Civil Liberties in the UK: Roundtable Discussion on New Anti-Protest Laws, Extraordinary Rendition, Immigration Laws & Torture

Shami Chakrabarti, an attorney and director of the British civil rights group Liberty, Milan Rai, of Justice Not Vengeance, and former diplomat Brian Barder discuss the state of civil liberties in Britain.
Remember that Democracy Now! is in London tomorrow as well. And Amy Goodman comes back to NYC Friday for the following appearances:
* Amy Goodman in New York, NY:
Fri, Mar 10 *
TIME: 7:15 PM
2006 IBS National College Radio Convention
Hotel Pennsylvania 6th Fl. Conference Suite Area

* Amy Goodman in New York, NY:
Sat, Mar 11 *
The Left Forum
Cooper Union
We'll start off the highlights by noting John Byrne and Ron Brynaert's "Washington nonprofit where Abramoff was director wrote articles favoring Abramoff clients" (Raw Story):
The Washington nonprofit whose president appeared before a Senate committee as a victim of fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff's congressional bribery net wrote repeated articles that aligned with the positions of the lobbyist's clients, suggesting possible coordination between the lobbyist and the group in violation of federal law.
In a series of editorials between 1999 and 2001, National Center for Public Policy Research president Amy Ridenour went to bat for the Commonwealth of the Marianas Islands, a small U.S. territory in the Pacific. Her releases bemoaned efforts to expand federal immigration laws to the island, defended the islands' meager wages and attacked Clinton Administration attempts to tighten labor laws.
Ridenour also lent her support to the Western Pacific Economic Council, a trade group composed of Marianas garment manufacturers. Her group's name appeared in a Saipan newspaper backing the Council in 1999.
Both the Marianas and the Economic Council were clients of Jack Abramoff at the time. The Marianas paid Abramoff's firm Preston Gates $1.9 million in 1999 and 2000 and his second firm, Greenberg Traurig, $1.1 million in 2001. The Western Pacific Economic Council paid Preston Gates $2.3 million in 1999 and 2000.
Ridenour did not return calls and emails asking for comment. Andrew Blum, a spokesman for Abramoff, also declined to comment. Abramoff pled guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials in January.
The National Center took to the national stage when it emerged that Abramoff -- who was a member of the nonprofit's board from 1997 to 2004 -- had laundered $2.5 million through the group to increase personal holdings and pay for congressional trips. The money underwrote overseas trips taken by House Administration Committee Chairman Robert Ney (R-OH) and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX).
We'll do like we do when Tracey highlights something and we note "yes, Ruth's granddaughter" -- yes, Ron of Why Are We Back In Iraq?
So what's on our mind today?  Peace, war, reproductive rights.  A visitor wondered "who gets picked, who gets skipped?"  Members recommend highlights.  If they note something is important to them (as opposed to just finding something interesting), it gets included.  Other than that, if there's something that only one member notes, it may get noted for the simple reason that others may not be aware of it.  If something's noted by many members, we usually credit whomever got it in first.
Today, the e-mails are focusing on reproductive rights, peace and war.  So the highlights below are ones that we (Ava, Jess and myself) selected from the suggestions. 
Lily notes good news from CODEPINK:
 Women Say NO To War -- More than 100,000 Sign-On! March 8, 2006: Congratulations, we did it!!! Thanks to the amazing efforts of CODEPINK women and devoted peace-makers all over the world we have reached our goal of collecting 100,000 signatures on the women's Call. Your signatures were delivered on time to the White House with the help of our brave Iraqi sisters who traveled all the way from Baghdad to demand the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq (see blogs and photos here). Please continue to sign the call at and pass it on to your friends and check out local events in your area.
So congratulations to CODEPINK and note that if you have not signed it, you (female or male) can still sign the call.
On the subject of reproductive rights, we have two highlights.  Eddie notes
Joe Farbeann's "Howard Dean, Meet Jane Roe" (BuzzFlash):
What was once a proud party that unabashedly advanced environmentalism, the anti-poverty programs of the New Deal and Great Society, and a woman's right to choose is now stuck cowering in fear of the Karl Rove machine. As Iraq so plainly demonstrates, Democrats are uncomfortable taking a firm stand on just about anything, no matter how much the public agrees with them.   But you've all heard this criticism before. If you're reading this, it means that you read blogs, so chances are high that you've read many an exhortation for Democratic spinal fortitude. So why is this relevant now, you ask? Just look at South Dakota, where legalized abortion was declared illegal on Monday.
Poll after poll after poll has shown that vast majorities of Americans support Roe vs. Wade. Less than two months ago, a
CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found that 66% of Americans want to uphold the landmark 1973 ruling, while just 25% would like to see it overturned. No matter how anti-choice activists spin it, there's a consensus in this country that safe and legal abortion should be defended and preserved. Despite this, Democrats have treated abortion rights as a losing political issue, internalizing the criticism of the radical right-wing lobby.
After the passage of the South Dakota law, Republicans with presidential ambitions, including supposed moderates like John McCain and Mitt Romney, have been falling over themselves to endorse it. Democrats, meanwhile, seem caught off guard and afraid to talk about the issue until James Carville sends them their weekly centrist talking points. While Republicans wear their opposition to abortion on their sleeves, Democrats often seem uncomfortable discussing the issue. Furthermore, when they do discuss it, they stray away from firm language in favor of nuance; much like John Kerry did in 2004. Nuanced views, however, not only leave pro-choice voters unsure and unenthused, but also fail to win over any anti-choicers, who see little grey area when it comes to fetuses.
Sadly, the Democrats feel they have reason to fear, no matter what the polling numbers are. After all, the anti-choice crowd has proven time and time again that they are organized, single-minded, and devoted to criminalizing abortion. Backers of a woman's right to choose, however, have been taking Roe vs. Wade for granted. With a majority of Americans voting for George W. Bush in 2004, one can only conclude that a large number of pro-choicers cast a ballot for a man who would make a coat hanger a gynecological instrument. Anti-choicers, meanwhile, will almost unanimously back anti-abortion politicians even if costs them their Social Security checks.
Martha notes this from Ms. Magazine:
Learn more about the South Dakota ban and read more about abortion rights:
The above is a great resource and we actually have three highlights.  Kevin's just e-mailed to note Kim Gandy's "The Attack Has Begun" (Below the Belt, NOW):
The attack has begun. Women are counting on us and we must not lose this fight.
This week South Dakota enacted a ban on all abortions except to save the life of the woman. Her health and future fertility do not matter to the South Dakota legislature or Governor Rounds. The fact that a woman has survived rape or incest does not matter to them. Because THEY know what is best for her and for her family, and they intend to force their will on her. Will your state be next?
The fight we have been warning you about--the fight to overturn Roe v. Wade and end all abortions--is very real and it is now well underway.
And, to make things worse, wily conservatives, determined to wage and win the war against women, haven't pinned their plan on South Dakota alone; they are pushing in sixteen other states with laws on the books or bills under consideration that are similar to the law in South Dakota.
But not every conservative wants an immediate challenge to Roe in the Supreme Court. Some want to continue pursuing the strategy that has been successful so far--and has already made access more and more difficult. This is especially true in rural states like South Dakota and Mississippi, where the lone clinic in each state already has to fly doctors in to perform abortions. Here's an excerpt from today's editorial in the National Review:
"Pro-lifers have gained ground over the last decade and a half by pursuing a savvy incremental strategy. That strategy puts the end of Roe within sight. If Roe falls, pro-lifers should then try to persuade the public in each state to prohibit most abortions. After that, they should try to persuade them to prohibit abortion in the case of rape and incest. To try to collapse this multi-stage process into an instant is to ignore social and political circumstances, and to throw away patiently and painfully won political victories for the sake of an emotional gesture."
But they're not in unison. When I debated Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, on Hardball last night, he flatly denied that they have any interest in a federal abortion ban that would apply in every state. They want an outright overturn of Roe, not a federal statute that could be revoked by a pro-choice Congressional majority.
Everyone who thought we've been crying "wolf" since Sandra Day O'Connor stepped down last year now has to face the cold, hard reality that the days of safe, legal abortions may be numbered.
Gandy and NOW didn't cry "wolf" and they fought hard against Alito and Roberts.  Remember to support those who stand up. 
Before we get to the last highlight, yes, the archives have changed.  Why?  The site would not publish half the time yesterday and the problem was ongoing this morning.  Not having heard from Blogger/Blogspot, I asked the UK Computer Gurus and they suggested switching the archives to monthly.  I'm not thrilled about it either, but, for now, it appears to have worked (in terms of allowing the site to publish).  Remember that tonight is indymedia roundup. 
Our last highlight is on Iran, Bill Scher's got a commentary that KeShawn notes.  Here are four points from "An Iran Strategy" (Liberal Oasis), recommendations on how Democrats in office should counter Bully Boy's war mongering/cheerleading/war-lust/blood-lust:
1. We would take away Iran's current incentive for going nuclear -- fear of regime change at gunpoint -- by ending the Iraqi occupation and scrapping permanent bases.
Once it is clear that America has changed its foreign policy course, we can establish a strong multinational alliance, open direct dialogue and negotiate a way for Iran to obtain the energy it needs in exchange for nuclear inspections.
2. We would also take away Iran's incentive by junking the India nuke deal, which undermines the main anti-nuclear treaty and fuels a regional arms race.
3. While conservatives will argue that you can't talk to Iran, the truth is Iran sought a nuclear agreement with us that would have also addressed it’s support for anti-Israel groups.
But, according to a former Bush aide, the Bushies snubbed Iran and refused to talk, again giving Iran incentive to go nuclear to protect themselves.
4. Why wouldn't the Bushies negotiate a settlement?
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