Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Democracy Now: Electronic Voting and Citizen Journalism

Over 50 Die in Series of Iraq Bombings
On Tuesday a car bomb exploded near a bus stop north of Baghdad killing at least twenty-five people. In Hilla, another twelve people died in a car bombing. And a third bomb killed ten people outside a Baghdad bakery.

U.S. Sends 1500 More Troops Into Iraq; Italy to Pull Out All Troops
In Iraq it now appears the United States will be unable to reduce the number of troops it has on the ground this year due to the increasing violence and the decision by several countries to begin withdrawing troops. On Monday, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, ordered the deployment of fifteen hundred more troops from Kuwait into Iraq. Meanwhile Italy has announced it would pull out its 2600 troops by year’s end and South Korea plans to bring home one thousand troops. Once Italy pulls out, Britain and South Korea will be the only nations besides the United States to have more than one thousand troops in Iraq.

38,000 Sign Papers to Overturn S. Dakota Abortion Ban
In South Dakota, about 38,000 residents have signed a petition in an effort to block the state from enacting a new ban on abortion. The group South Dakota Campaign For Healthy Families announced on Tuesday that it collected more than twice the number of signatures needed to force a statewide referendum on the issue in November. The law, which is seen as the most extreme abortion law in the country, was scheduled to go into effect on July 1. The new law bans all abortions -- including in cases of incest and rape -- unless it is necessary to save the pregnant woman's life. Doctors who perform abortions deemed illegal by the state could face up to five years in jail and a five thousand dollar fine.

Supreme Court Rules Against Gov't Whistleblowers
The Supreme Court has dealt a setback to government whistleblowers. In a five to four decision, the court declared that the Constitution does not always protect the free-speech rights of government employees for what they say on the job. The court held that the free-speech rights of public employees are protected when they speak out as citizens on matters of public concern, but not when they speak out in the course of their official duties. The case centered on the demotion of a Los Angeles County prosecutor named Richard Ceballo. He sued the Los Angeles County district attorney's office when he was demoted after he revealed that a sheriff's deputy had lied to get a search warrant.

600,000 Students Walk Out of Classes in Chile
In Chile, nearly 600,000 high school students walked out of classes on Tuesday to demand the government spend more on education. In the capital of Santiago, police arrested nearly 400 student protesters. Police also used tear gas and water cannons to try to break up the demonstrations, which are the largest student protests in Chile in decades. The protests began two weeks ago when students began taking over schools in Santiago.

The above five items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Lucy, Kara, Brad, Markus and Charlie. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for May 31, 2006

- 38,000 Sign Papers Overturn S. Dakota Abortion Ban
- U.S. Sends 1500 More Troops Into Iraq; Italy to Pull Out All Troops
- Record Number of Multiple Fatality Bombings Recorded in Iraq
- UN Says AIDS Epidemic Is Beginning to Slow Down
- Supreme Court Rules Against Gov't Whistleblowers
- Senate Confirms Telecom Lobbyist to FCC
- GOP Official Involved in Phone-Jamming Scandal Released From Jail
- 600,000 Students Walk Out of Classes in Chile
- Bush Nominates Henry Paulson to Become Treasury Secretary

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

Electronic Voting Machine Study Exposes Most Serious Security Flaws Ever Documented

A report released earlier this month details what experts say are the most serious electronic voting machine flaws ever documented. We speak with David Dill, a computer science professor at Stanford University and founder of as well as a former Utah county clerk who was forced out after having Diebold voting machines independently tested in his county. [includes rush transcript]

Citizen Journalism: A Look at How Blogging is Changing the Media Landscape from the Congo to Korea

Democracy Now! is broadcasting from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California where the inaugural TechSoup NetSquared Conference is being held. The theme of this year's conference is "Remixing the web for social change." It's bringing together representatives from the technology and non-profit sectors to talk about new ways of using the web and technology for social ends. [includes rush transcript]

Iraq snapshot.

Chaos and violence continue while Bully Boy strikes a pose appearing to be "troubled" by the Haditha slaughter. This as the Brookings Institute and the American Enterprise Institute find common ground as both present spokespersons who say the Bully Boy walks away from the scandal with no harm, no foul to his own image. Ann Clwyd, who both lives in a dream world and holds the post of the UK's human rights envoy to Iraq (a comical title in and of itself), falls back on the 'few bad apples' defense as she likens Haditha to Abu Ghraib.

While some fall back on mimimizing via denial and yet another wave of Operation Happy Talk, The Financial Times of London comments on both the revelations and the original cover up to address why comparisons are being made to the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. Also raising questions is The Christian Science Monitor which wonders whether or not the military can investigate itself and notes: "There is no position in the Department of Defense akin to an attorney general - someone whose job it is solely to follow up on credible allegations. Under the current system, investigations are convened by local commanders, who have many other duties - and perhaps conflicts of interest."

Meanwhile, Reuters reports, "A preliminary military inquiry found evidence that US Marines killed two dozen Iraqi civilians in an unprovoked attack in November, contradicting the troops' account." Reuters also notes a "defense official," Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrzas, stating that "Forensic data from corpses showed victims with bullet wounds, despite earlier statements by Marines that civilians were killed by a roadside bomb that also claimed the life of a Marine from El Paso, Texas."

The apparent lack of accountability at the top may be why Nuri al-Maliki, Iraqi prime minister and puppet of the occupation, bandies around terms like "iron fist" as he declares a month long "state of emergency" in Basra.

With another view, Iraq's former foreign minister and current member of parliment Adnan Pachachi declared, "There must be a level of discipline imposed on the American troops and change of mentality which seems to think that Iraqi lives are expendable." Also dissenting from the group think is Iraq's ambassador to the United States, Samir Shakir al-Sumaidaie, who said of the June 25th killing of a cousin in Haditha by American forces, "I believe he was killed intentionally. I believe he was killed unnecessarily. The marines were doing house-to-house searches, and they went into the house of my cousin. He opened the door for them. His mother, his siblings were there. He let them into the bedroom of his father, and there he was shot."

Interviewed today by C.S. Soong on KPFA's Against The Grain, author Anthony Arnove (IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal) stated of the allegations of the November slaughter in Haditha, "In fact they just underscore the fact that the longer the United States stays, the more harm it causes to the people of Iraq. The situation in Haditha is a symptom of an occupation. Just as the torture we saw exposed in the Abu Ghraib detention facilities is a sympton of a much deeper problem."

This as the Associated Press reports that American forces shot and killed two women, one of them pregnant, at a checkpoint today in Baghdad. Nabiha Nisaif Jassim, thirty-five-years-old, was being rushed to the hospital by her brother, Khalid Nisaif Jassim, with her cousin, Saliha Mohammed Hassan, also in the car. Both women were killed. The brother, who was driving, denies the US accounts that the area was a clearly marked check point. A US spokesperson e-mailed a weasel word statement to the Associated Press where they note that the woman "may have been pregnant." Naibha Nisaif Jassim was rushed to the maternity hospital (her intended destination) but both she and the child she was carrying died. A US spokesperson, emailing Reuters, called the deaths "a mistake."

AFP notes that "Over the past two days alone more than 100 people have been killed in a wave of bombings and shootings in Iraq." Noting another sadly common feature of the occupation, Reuters reports that forty-two corpses have been found dumped in the last twenty-four hours. Australia's ABC reports an attack in southern Iraq on an Australian military vehichle. The AFP notes an attack, in Baghdad, on a police station that lasted over an hour and led to the death of four civilians and the wounding of three police officers. Reuters reports a mortar attack in Baghdad that led to the death of nine people. In Muqdadiya, the mayor, his cousin and brother were all killed when the mayor's office was bombed today.

Though the heads of the ministries of defense and interior have still not been filled, the Turkish Press reports that three ministers will be replaced "because they do not have the proper qualifications or had not been cleared by the de-Baathification commission."

Reuters notes that CBS reporter Kimberly Dozier has had shrapnel removed from her head and remains in intensive care. Meanwhile the AFP reports that another journalist has been killed while he was leaving his home in Baghdad. Reporters Without Borders notes that sports reporter Jaafar Ali became "the third journalist to be killed in Iraq in the space of 48 hours and the 11th employee of the national TV station Al-Iraqiya to be killed since the start of the war in March 2003." This as UAE diplomat Naji al-Nuaimi left Iraq and returned home following his rescue from his two-week kidnapping that began May 16th. Finally, the AFP notes that "the latest indication that US hopes for a major troop drawdown this year were fading fast."

Highlights. We have three, two come from CounterPunch. When we get two worthy highlights (my choice on worthy) from the same source, I usually hope to note one now and one later and that doesn't happen (time always runs out). So we'll note both from CounterPunch in this entry. First up, Jonathan notes Dave Lindorff's "DNC Death Wish 2006:"

Do national and congressional Democrats have a death wish?
In the course of discussing Barbara Olshansky's and my new book, "The Case for Impeachment," I'm coming to the conclusion that they must. And that's even before they do something stupid like support the nomination of General Michael Hayden to head the CIA.
Rank-and-file Democrats want--badly want--to see President Bush get impeached. So do independents. I hear it from everyone I meet. It's the rare Democrat or progressive or even independent who says she or he doesn't agree with the idea of impeachment, and even then, it's because such people are misinformed themselves and think that while they personally would love to see Bush get dragged into a big impeachment investigation, the rest of America wouldn't like it to happen.
That seems to be the wrong-headed thinking of the Democratic Party leadership. Both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have vowed that if Democrats retake the House and/or Senate, that there will be no impeachment of the president attempted. Both leaders of the House and Senate election campaigns, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) have actively worked to undermine the primary candidacies of aggressive candidates who favor impeachment. These political cowards and sell-outs claim that what the voters want is for Democrats to press ahead in a positive way with their "agenda," forgetting that they really don't have an agenda, and that in any event, whatever bills they pass will simply be cancelled by the president, who will simply issue a "signing statement" invalidating their legislation.
The point, though, is that these sorry leaders are all wrong. The broad mass of the American public wants to be shed of this disastrous administration, and does not want to have to endure two more years of war, deceit, incompetence and politicization of every issue.

A visitor is very troubled/concerned/worried that I am "covering up for Harry Reid." Reid, the Senate minority leader, is the topic of some press concern for boxing tickets he received (worth a great deal of money) while legislation was being debated on the regulation of that industry. I'm not covering up. We're not focusing on every development in a Congressional scandal. (We do focus on Tom DeLay due to the large number of members from his state.) There are two wars going on and a great deal more. Plenty of other sites can run down the latest congressional scandal. We're also not focused on the 2006 elections or advocating that "you" vote for one candidate. The New York Times had an Associated Press story yesterday. If we noted the AP from the Times (in the morning entries) it usually means the Times has had a very bad day (translation, nothing else worth noting). The Washington Post carries an AP story today (by John Solomon). Had Martha or another member noted it, we would have highlighted it because I don't care for Harry Reid and think not only does he need to step down but he never should have been made the leader. He's done a very poor job and continues to do so. Equally disturbing to me than the tickets was who he took along with him to the fights (John McCain -- who paid for his own tickets -- and John Ensign who, unlike Reid, recused himself from voting on the issue -- recused himself for a number of reasons) -- two Republicans. He has down time and he's spending it with senators . . . from the other party. Says a great deal about Harry Reid and "bipartisan" isn't the term that comes to mind. Reid was a lousy senator before he became 'leader' and he's been a lousy leader providing no direction ("Don't make waves!" isn't direction) for the party and not even having the initial spunk that the previous minority leader had (true, when slapped down, Tommy D would immediately back off and frequently apologize, but it was more life than Reid's demonstrated).

I have no desire to cover up for Reid or to justify his actions. But there's a great deal going on, the issue wasn't raised by members and we're not a breathless, "Congress news!" site. There are sites that cover Congress (breathlessly and non-breathlessly) so the visitor would probably be happier seeking those out. I'll add that his 'defense' is laughable and shameful coming from a 'leader.' (No one in his state would object, he whines, presumably because they're huge boxing fans in Nevada. It doesn't matter, you don't take freebies when you're deciding legislation.) Saying that no one would accuse him of a conflict of appearance is equally laughable. He's being accused right now and since when has the Republican party needed a factual basis to make an accusation? He did a stupid thing and he needs to apologize for it, not attempt to minimize it. As the minority leader, he sets a very bad example and pretending that he's holier-than-thou that nothing could taint him is both laughable and unhelpful.

Media Matters, always on the partisan beat (not an insult) has an item about how Reid voted, at least once against, after accepting the tickets, against what the lobbying organization wanted. That doesn't change a thing in my viewpoint. He shouldn't have accepted the gift. Rah-rah that he didn't vote as they might have wanted doesn't change the fact that the tickets (worth a large sum) should have never been accepted to begin with. (Media Matters is commenting on the reporting, not on Reid's actions.)

Second highlight from CounterPunch is Mia's and thank you to Mia for noting that this writer rarely gets noted. She's covering Latin American, the writer, very often and usually I read Mia's highlight, think "powerful," and intend to highlight it later that evening -- never happens. So here's Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's "Stop Saying This is a Nation of Immigrants:"

A nation of immigrants: This is a convenient myth developed as a response to the 1960s movements against colonialism, neocolonialism, and white supremacy. The ruling class and its brain trust offered multiculturalism, diversity, and affirmative action in response to demands for decolonization, justice, reparations, social equality, an end of imperialism, and the rewriting of history -- not to be "inclusive" -- but to be accurate. What emerged to replace the liberal melting pot idea and the nationalist triumphal interpretation of the "greatest country on earth and in history," was the "nation of immigrants" story.
By the 1980s, the "waves of immigrants" story even included the indigenous peoples who were so brutally displaced and murdered by settlers and armies, accepting the flawed "Bering Straits" theory of indigenous immigration some 12,000 years ago. Even at that time, the date was known to be wrong, there was evidence of indigenous presence in the Americas as far back as 50,000 years ago, and probably much longer, and entrance by many means across the Pacific and the Atlantic -- perhaps, as Vine Deloria jr. put it, footsteps by indigenous Americans to other continents will one day be acknowledged. But, the new official history texts claimed, the indigenous peoples were the "first immigrants." They were followed, it was said, by immigrants from England and Africans, then by Irish, and then by Chinese, Eastern and Southern Europeans, Russians, Japanese, and Mexicans. There were some objections from African Americans to referring to enslaved Africans hauled across the ocean in chains as "immigrants," but that has not deterred the "nation of immigrants" chorus.
Misrepresenting the process of European colonization of North America, making everyone an immigrant, serves to preserve the "official story" of a mostly benign and benevolent USA, and to mask the fact that the pre-US independence settlers, were, well, settlers, colonial setters, just as they were in Africa and India, or the Spanish in Central and South America. The United States was founded as a settler state, and an imperialistic one from its inception ("manifest destiny," of course). The settlers were English, Welsh, Scots, Scots-Irish, and German, not including the huge number of Africans who were not settlers. Another group of Europeans who arrived in the colonies also were not settlers or immigrants: the poor, indentured, convicted, criminalized, kidnapped from the working class (vagabonds and unemployed artificers), as Peter Linebaugh puts it, many of who opted to join indigenous communities.

Third highlight gets no quote. Three members called it "nonsense" (twelve members complained about). Click here to read it (takes you to Common Dreams). The author, who has made his dislike for Alexander Cockburn known, hasn't really had anything worth saying on the peace movement, now wants to trash "my generation" and of course does so not in the pages of The Nation but at the International Herald Tribune (a New York Times subsidary) where there's money and name to be made by pissing on the movement. If there is a lack of awareness of the peace movement within his own generation, I'll again toss back to The Nation and note that a once a year story on the peace movement doesn't cut it. Naomi Klein and Katha Pollitt are both finishing books and not doing their columns. With two holes in the schedule, the magazine could turn space over to covering the peace movement.

Whining about the current state of the peace movement does nothing (but make a bit of name for yourself) and if you've not bothered to regularly address it (the way Matthew Rothschild tracks the creeping McCarthyism at The Progressive's website), then maybe you should take a look at yourself (a far less flattering look at one's self than the IHT column presents)? The Nation's a bi-weekly magazine. Ty told me this afternoon that an e-mail had come in at The Third Estate Sunday Review saying it was them "versus The Nation." That's not the case. Everyone participating at The Third Estate Sunday Review reads The Nation (most of us have subscriptions to it). If we wanted to be "versus" we wouldn't be noting that the magazine needs to start covering the peace movement seriously. This morning alone, we noted two pieces by Katrina vanden Heuvel. We note John Nichols, Christian Parenti, Pollitt, Klein and more. But this idea that the peace movement can be covered periodically isn't cutting it.

That's said, by me in this case, as a subscriber of the magazine and someone who enjoys it. The peace movement has grown through word of mouth. The mainstream media has mocked, minimized and ignored it. For that reason alone, The Nation should be providing a regular column on it. Leslie Cagan is one person who quickly comes to mind as someone who could be a columnist covering the "beat." The movement needs coverage to grow and an occassional story doesn't cut it.

In the sixties (and early seventies), you had a number of publications, including alternative weeklies, covering the peace movement. With New Times owning so many alternative weeklies (yes, they've changed their name, we'll continue to call them "New Times" here) and more interested in "lifestyle" pieces than anything of value, a huge hole in coverage exists. As a bi-weekly with two of their most prominent columnists on leave, The Nation could easily provide coverage of the peace movement today.

Regular coverage in every other issue if not every issue. Awareness doesn't come from a scolding of the peace movement in IHT, it comes from regular coverage. The Nation does many wonderful things (many more than we could ever note here) but none of us running sites in this community are going to bite our tongues and pretend that they've done a wonderful job covering the peace movement. Compared to the New York Times, they've done a brilliant job. But that's true of anything The Nation covers and we don't see the Times as the yard stick to measure an important magazine by.

The writer of the IHT piece last weighed in after visiting with White students involved with questionable campus organizations -- and not overly concerned about the war in Iraq. If that's coverage, from our leading magazine on the left, God help us all.

To grow at a faster rate, the movement needs regular coverage, not an occassional story. Those who whine about the state of the movement might want to consider covering the movement. As someone who's been on campuses in every state except Alaska, I don't see a weak movement or a floudering one -- but then I don't just speak to White moderates -- possibly that's the difference?

Were I to finger point (we raised the issue for a piece that ran in the print edition of Sunday's The Third Estate Sunday Review), I wouldn't point to people my age or to students -- who are doing their part. I'd point to the demographic that came of age (teenage years) in the mid-to-late seventies and didn't appear overly interested then or since. That's the generation that I continue to see not participating in the numbers that other generations participate. ("Generations" do not span twenty years -- I don't buy the popular conventions of "generations" -- time moves to quickly.) But even they are turning out. Possibly they'd turn out in larger numbers and speak out in larger numbers if the press was covering the movement repeatedly?

Until that happens, it's probably better not to slam the movement as you attempt to make a name for yourself in the mainstream media?

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