Thursday, April 13, 2006

Democracy Now: Village Voice Shakeup; Amy Branham, Norman Solomon

Juan Gonzalez noted, immediately after the headlines, that the police count for the NYC immigrants rights march. Press reports ran with 100,000 due to the fact that the police didn't release the count until the day after the press had done their one day story and moved on. Rachel asked that we note it and we'll note it at the top of the entry.

Rev. William Sloane Coffin, 81, Dies
And the Rev. William Sloane Coffin Jr. has died at the age of 81. For the past half century he has been a leading anti-war and civil rights advocated. During the 1960s as chaplain of Yale University he was a leading critic of the Vietnam War and strongly advocated the use of civil disobedience to protest the war. In one of the most celebrated trials of the 1960s he faced charges along with Dr. Benjamin Spock and others of conspiracy to encourage draft evasion. He was also an early supporter of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and took part in some of the first Freedom Rides. Courage, he preached over the years, was the first virtue, because ''it makes all other virtues possible.'' In the 1970s he went on to become a senior minister at the Riverside Church in New York. And in the 1980s he played an instrumental role in the anti-nuclear movement.

Patrick Cockburn on Iraq: "I Have Never Seen the Situation So Grim"
Earlier this week veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn of the London Independent wrote: "I am becoming convinced that [Iraq] will not survive… I have been covering the war ever since it began three years ago and I have never seen the situation so grim."

Bush Criticized For Falsely Claiming U.S. Found Mobile Weapon Labs in Iraq
The White House is coming under intense scrutiny after the Washington Post revealed that the administration kept asserting it had uncovered mobile biological labs in Iraq even after a team of Pentagon investigators had concluded no such labs had been found. On May 27, 2003 the Pentagon made its findings available. Two days later President Bush said "We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories." Days later Secretary of State Colin Powell said "We have already discovered mobile biological factories… There is no question in our mind that that's what their purpose was. Nobody has come up with an alternate purpose that makes sense." The Bush administration continued with its faulty claim for more than a year.
In Washington, Press Secretary Scott McClellan attempted to spin the controversy of mobile labs by criticizing the press for covering a story based on what he described as rehashed, old information. He called the story "an embarrassment for the media" and irresponsible because the Bush administration has already admitted its pre-war intelligence on Iraq was mistaken. But McClellan could not answer whether the President knew of the Pentagon's conclusions before he publicly said the trailers were proof Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Powell Admits He Did Not Believe Iraq Posed Imminent Nuclear Threat
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is now saying neither he nor his aides believed Iraq posed an imminent nuclear threat before the US-led invasion. In an interview with journalist Robert Scheer, Powell said the President was convinced by nuclear claims given to him by Vice President Dick Cheney and the CIA. Powell said: "The CIA was pushing the aluminum tube argument heavily and Cheney went with that instead of what our guys wrote." Asked about President Bush's faulty claim that Saddam Hussein attempted to buy nuclear material from Niger in his State of the Union speech, Powell reportedly answered: "It should never have been in the speech... I never believed it."

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Liang, Keesha, Kansas and Joan. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for April 13, 2006
- 65,000 Iraqis Displaced By Violence
- Patrick Cockburn on Iraq: "I Have Never Seen the Situation So Grim"
- Fourth Retired General Calls For Rumsfeld to Resign
- AT&T Seeks Return of Leaked Documents Exposing NSA Spying
- Report: 15,000 Suffer From Medical Problems in NYC Post 9/11
- Powell Admits He Did Not Believe Iraq Posed Imminent Nuclear Threat
- Italy Won’t Seek Extradition of CIA Agents Involved in Kidnapping
- Rev. William Sloane Coffin, 81, Dies

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

Village Voice Shakeup: Top Investigative Journalist Fired, Prize-Winning Writers Resign Following Merger with New Times Media
We focus on the shakeup at the Village Voice, where one of the paper's top investigative reporters was fired and two of its prize-winning writers resigned following a merger with the New Times Media -- a chain of weekly newspapers based in Phoenix. In this week's issues, about 20 staffers wrote an open letter protesting the dismissal of James Ridgeway -- the paper's Washington correspondent and one of its chief investigative reporters covering national news. Ridgeway had written for the paper for over 30 years. We speak with Ridgeway as well as Village Voice reporters Nat Hentoff, Tom Robbins, Sydney Schanberg -- who recently resigned from the paper -- and two reporters who have been following the story closely, Mark Jacobson and Tim Redmond. [includes rush transcript]

The End of the Internet? Net Neutrality Threatened by Cable, Telecom Interests
The vital concept of net neutrality -- universal and non-discriminatory to the Internet -- is at risk. Phone and cable companies are lobbying Congress for legislation that would permit them to operate Internet and other digital communications services as private networks, free of policy safeguards or governmental oversight. We speak with Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy. [includes rush transcript]

In Iraq? Yesterday's bombings in Baghdad resulted in the death of at least 25 civilians with some press reports putting the count at 31. Today, CNN reports that across Iraq, that an estimated 30,000 civilians are fleeing due to the continued chaos and violence. This as China's People's Daily announces that 150 British troops in Cyprus will be deployed to Iraq and, as the Associated Press noted earlier this week and continues to note, American troops once again are in charge of patrolling Baghdad leading to questions of the capability levels of Iraqi troops as 20,000 Americans hit the streets. And this comes while AFP reports that the Muslim Scholar Association has accused the Shi'ite government of utilizing death squads which claimed the lives of at least 68 Iraqi civilians last week. Today in Baghdad, violence has claimed the lives of an estimated 36 people including one American soldier. Also in Baghdad, the brother of Tariq al-Hashimi, Sunni party leader, has been kidnapped, previously this month, families of two other prominent Sunni leaders were kidnapped. The brother, Mahmoud al-Hashimi, was later reported dead along with one person he had been traveling with. In Ghayda village, health care official Shehab Ahmad was kidnapped while, in Baghdad, an employee at Yarmouk hospital stated that the bodies of two truck drivers had been brought in -- killed by gunfire. Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports that, in Falluja, five corpses were found with gunshot wounds and signs of torture at the same time as five more corpses have been discovered in Baghdad. As the Associated Press sums up today: "More killing, more kidnappings, more bodies found in Iraq." In Mosul, an Iraqi police officer was killed by gunfire while driving his sons to school, one of his children was also killed and the other son was "seriously wounded." In Basra a home invasion resulted in the death of a father, five sons and one other relative. CNN reports that, earlier this week, when Shi'ite politician Abdul Aziz Hakim spoke to a crowd requesting that conflicts between Shi'ites and Sunnis cease, he was greeted with chants of "America out! America out!"

Will the above prevent the next wave of Operation Happy Talk? Does anything ever prevent it?

Susan, Julia and Ray note Rebecca's "june pointer 1953-2006." June Pointer was a member of the Pointer Sisters and passed away on Tuesday. Rebecca's written a wonderful look back at the group. (Kat says, "Read it!")

We have two other highlights that we'll note. First up, Diana notes Amy Branham's "Unite for Peace!" (BuzzFlash):

Early last August I joined Cindy Sheehan on her march to King George's ranch. We wanted to ask him what the "noble cause" was that our sons had died for. In a speech earlier that week, King George stated that the sons and daughters of America who were fighting and dying in Iraq where there for a "noble cause".
Those of us who were there that fateful afternoon, marching in the ditches and the hot Texas sun, were united in the belief that George Bush and his administration had waged an unjust war on the Iraqi country and Her people. We believed that the lives of the Iraq people were not better off at that time, as we had been told, but were even worse off than they were when the whole thing began. We still believe these things.
As you all know, we never got the meeting we requested. George Bush never answered our question and he has not looked any of us in the eye and given an acceptable explanation as to why America's sons and daughters are dying.
And now -- now we hear rumors of impending war in Iran, possibly with nuclear weapons. I find this news greatly disturbing on so many levels, so wrong in so many different ways.
It is time to ask other important questions of this administration and of those who support it, which are these: Why in the world would you want to bring about World War III by starting a war with Iran? How could you ever, in the most remote corners of your imaginations, even begin to think something good could come of this for the world, much less the citizens of the United States of America?

I'll make some points after the following highlight, Brandon notes Norman Solomon's "The Lobby and the Bulldozer" (CounterPunch):

Weeks after a British magazine published a long article by two American professors titled "The Israel Lobby," the outrage continued to howl through mainstream U.S. media.
A Los Angeles Times op-ed article by Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Max Boot helped to set a common tone. He condemned a working paper by professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt that was excerpted last month in the London Review of Books.
The working paper, Boot proclaimed, is "nutty." And he strongly implied that the two professors -- Mearsheimer at the University of Chicago and Walt at Harvard -- are anti-Semitic.
Many who went on the media attack did more than imply. On April 3, for instance, the same day that the Philadelphia Inquirer reprinted Boot's piece from the L.A. Times, a notably similar op-ed appeared in the Boston Herald under the headline "Anti-Semitic Paranoia at Harvard."
And so it goes in the national media echo chamber. When a Johns Hopkins University professor weighed in last week on the op-ed page of the Washington Post, the headline was blunt: "Yes, It's Anti-Semitic." The piece flatly called the Mearsheimer-Walt essay "kooky academic work" -- and "anti-Semitic."
But nothing in the essay is anti-Semitic.

We like Solomon in this community and he's a trusted voice. That's partly due to the fact that he doesn't play one-hand-two-hands-three-hands in a Dr. Seus article. There were two highlights earlier this week that I made the decision to reject because our "brave" left voices felt the need to play the I'm-so-reasonable game on the academic study that Solomon is writing of. It doesn't cut it. And if it does, maybe it should be in a report and not in a column or a jot? It was very disappointing to note both men (they were both men) who had previously not been afraid to use their voices twist and turn as they tried to say the report was accurate while distancing themselves from it and their own conclusions. Reading both commentaries, the question in my mind was, "What are you so afraid of?" It was as cowardly as the lisper's writing of the attacks on Susan Sontag as "justifable, I suppose."

I'm really not sure what kind of a message the left believes that nonsense sends. As someone who's seen, for years, people be stigmatized (not by the right who attacked, but by the left, psudeo-left and centrists who immediately distanced themselves), we're no longer offering highlights where people offer weak defenses. If you think the academic study was correct (I do), you say so. You don't build your column or your jot around perhapses and possibilys. Not in the midst of an attack from the right. It's shameful and it encourages cowardly behavior.

A number of critiques of the echo chamber have focused on what the right has done, few have bothered to raise the issue of what the left (left, psuedo-left, center-left and centrists trying to pass themselves off as "left" when they've got a PowerPoint presentation posing as a book to sell) has done. A very uninformed person online attempted to discuss Cindy Sheehan during the original Camp Casey and didn't know the basics. When she was informed of them, she went on to say that it wasn't Sheehan's place to call for the troops to be brought home. When she then felt the need to tell a "funny" about Barbra Streisand, she lost all use and value to this community. I have no idea why someone on the left needs to distance themselves from Sheehan or why they think joining the attack squads of the right in trashing Streisand is helpful or needed. (Disclosure, I know Streisand.) But it's nonsense. (And I repeated "But it's nonsense" four times before the person I am dictating this too asked if I my needle was stuck.)

The left's never going to be rebuilt when people try to pass themselves off as "reasonable" by allowing that Sontag this or Streisand that . . . Serious issues and debates can occur within the left and should. But that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about weak-ass support (and knives in the back) passing for bravery and it's not brave. It's cowardly and it's disgusting.

If the lisper, for example, had a problem with Sontag's brief New Yorker essay, he could have noted that. He could have discussed it. (It might have brought his dead on arrival prose to life.) He didn't. He just tossed in a 'justified', re: the attacks, to appear "reasonable." And repeated a lie about Naomi Wolf as well -- one that's never been corrected or been owned up to. Wolf was falsely attacked for a number of things by the right. Throwing in the towel and repeating false charges doesn't help the left. It may make you appear "reasonable" to some but it doesn't help the left.

Throwing in the towel everytime the right attacks will never rebuild the left in America. Repeating false charges will destroy the left. That's not about disagreement, that's about cowardly and worse.

I diagree with Tom Hayden's evaluation of John Kerry's plan. I can say that. I can respond in any way I like (with whatever tone I want). I wouldn't distort his words or his view and claim that I'm doing anything that helps the left. (Hayden's view is that every person speaking out helps. That's basic and it's true. He has hopes that the plan can garner support in Congress -- and it's true that some plan needs to be rallied around. The plan is xenophobic in my opinion. Maybe that's what it takes to sell America on it? I don't think so. I think the politicians lag way behind the people on the issue of Iraq. Kerry's doing something, I'm blah to his plan and won't cheerlead it here when it has deadlines/demands for Iraqis but I see no deadlines/demands for the occupying power.) (Disclosure, I know Hayden.) More importantly, I can't deny his (or Jane's) very real accomlishments and rush to appear "reasonable" by tsk-tsking him.

Tom Hayden's earned his spot on the left. People can disagree with him (I do on the Kerry plan) but they can't echo right-wing slams to appear "reasonable" and also be helping the left. When the very real accomplishments of the left are turned into something of shame and/or ridicule by those claiming to be left (in the desire to appear "reasoned"), the left's not being helped. When, as noted here before, a left radio personality (not on Pacifica) has Tariq Ali (a wonderful voice) as a guest and waits until he has left to inform her listeners that his appearance doesn't mean she agrees with him -- that's cowardly. And it cripples the left as much as any attacks from the right.

If she disagreed with Ali (his statements on the program -- now cancelled -- weren't controversial but apparently she thought he himself might be), she could have raised the issue or issues with him. He would have enjoyed discussing and debating them. But to wait until he's gone and stab him in the back with that little 'editorial statement' was cowardly and shameful.

The left can be critiqued (in any manner, in any tone) by the left -- that's not a problem. What's a problem is repeating easy slams from the right, distortions made by the right, to prove how "reasonable" you are. (Also not helpful is taking a story Democracy Now! covers -- and covers well -- and instead noting the mainstream as though they just broke news or discovered a topic. A point Cedric wants noted but one that I'm sure the community will agree with. This week alone, Amy Goodman's interviewed Seymour Hersh, Greg Palast -- and shown some of his BBC report -- and others while she and Juan Gonzalez have addressed the issue of the Village Voice.
The attention level Democracy Now! receives could be upped by about a thousand and still not note the degree to which this program breaks ground daily. Irritating to members is reading statements such as "NPR just did a really wonderful report that was groundbreaking and blah blah blah" when in fact the topic was covered by DN! and other Pacifica Radio programs days, weeks, months ago. There's a lot of stroking NPR from our left print set. Not a great deal of support for Pacifica Radio.)

Next topic (main one in the e-mails). In the coverage of Katie Couric (who is not "the left") there seems to be a national game of bash-the-bitch going on. That includes the left. And a great deal of uninformed comments are being made. Ava has circulated an early draft of our piece on this for The Third Estate Sunday Review to attempt to cut down on the e-mails on that topic and the response is positive. But as we state in that piece (or do in its current version), bash-the-bitch is a national craze (always). Getting caught up in it means only that you're caught up in it, it doesn't mean that you are a sexist. People who now realize the illegal war was wrong got caught up in Bully Boy's craze. At The Third Estate Sunday Review, where our "beat" is mainstream TV, we will address sexism whenever we see it. But for those who are wondering why that or a completed draft hasn't gone up here, we've spent more than enough time talking about the topic of Couric (whom Ava and I both know). That's why, when it was unofficial official that she was going to CBS, I dropped the issue here (despite continued prodding from friends at CBS).

We noted the official news when it was announced only after members kept e-mailing about it. Ava sent out the early draft (with everyone's permission) only when this topic resulted in so many e-mails from members that we weren't even finding many highlights in the e-mails. It will go up at The Third Estate Sunday Review on Sunday. We're all glad that the response is so positive and so vocal but there's enough focus on the New York Times here so let's know that it will go up Sunday and step away from the mainstream media. We've got indymedia roundup tonight and Jess reports that there were only four suggested highlights for it as of noon.

Sexism, like racism or homophobia or xenophobia or any other -ist or -phobia, can pop up when the nation works itself into a frenzy and it's great that this community concerns itself with these issues. But in terms of Couric (who is mainstream), it will be addressed Sunday. Since the e-mailed draft didn't shift the topic of the majority of the e-mails (which was the reason for sending it out to begin with), I'm asking that we please shift it now. Two of the most popular questions (Dona thinks if they're answered the e-mails may return to noting indymedia in all its forms) are "Is that how it will read?" and "Will more examples be added?" The latter, no. In fact, specific examples will be stripped away or we're looking at a research paper. The tone at The Third Estate Sunday Review is "smart ass." (A tone that's dominated here since the talk of "tone" by the gatekeepers started. A tone that will continue loudly and proudly.) The early draft is where we noted specifics of what went on the air. That was our cut and dry version. What goes up will fit the tone of The Third Estate Sunday Review. We'll be adding humor (or our attempts at it) and we'll be compressing huge sections. Ty said to note that we're not sure (Ava and myself) whether that will be our only TV piece because The Third Estate Sunday Review is getting e-mails asking that. There may be another piece from Ava and myself. Now, until Sunday, let's try to let that be the last on this issue.

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