Friday, May 12, 2006

Democracy Now: NSA discussion, Cindy Sheehan & Elaine Johnson address the war

Bush's Approval Rating Sinks to 29%
And President Bush's approval rating has hit another new low. According to a poll by Harris Interactive, just 29% of Americans believe the President is doing a good job. Another poll tracking views on the President and the outlook for the United States led the New York Times to conclude: "Americans have a bleaker view of the country's direction than at any time in more than two decades."

Chomsky Criticizes US Stance on Iran
Meanwhile, on a visit to Lebanon, MIT professor Noam Chomsky was asked about the Bush administration's row with Iran.
  • Noam Chomsky: "The regional superpower Israel is threatening to attack [Iran], the U.S. is threatening to attack it. These threats alone are outright violations international law and of the U.N. charter. Iran is in difficulty. Iran has been trying for some years to negotiate settlement but the U.S. just refuses."

EU Lawmakers In US For CIA Prisons, Rendition Investigation
Back in the United States, a group of European lawmakers are in this country as part of their investigation into the CIA's secret prison facilities and renditions of suspects throughout their continent. But after a meeting with the State Department, Carlos Coelho, the delegation's Portuguese chair, said US officials had given very little information.
  • Carlos Coelho: "They reminded the European committee the United States of America are [bound] by international law, so they deny anything like making renditions to foreign countries to torture someone. They reminded some declarations from Ms. Rice, admitting perhaps some kind of mistakes can happen, but it's our duty to provide if it is true, no other errors can be made in the future."
US Mulls Troop Deployment To Mexican Border
The Associated Press is reporting the Pentagon is examining ways to use the military to patrol the United States border with Mexico. Paul McHale, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland security, has asked aides to draw up plans for the deployment of military resources and troops, including the National Guard. The news comes on the heels of a meeting this week between White House political strategist Karl Rove and several Republican lawmakers where the issue was discussed. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill Thursday, lawmakers approved a measure that would allow limited deployments of military personnel to assist border officials.

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

Headlines for May 12, 2006

- Bush Admin. Stonewalls Questions on Latest NSA Revelations
- IAEA Head: Iran Dispute Can Be Resolved Diplomatically
- Chomsky Criticizes US Stance on Iran
- 4 US Troops Killed in Reported Accident
- Diego Garcia Islanders Win Legal Battle To Return
- EU Lawmakers In US For CIA Prisons, Rendition Investigation
- US Mulls Troop Deployment To Mexican Border
- Kentucky Governor Indicted For Conspiracy, Misconduct
- Bush's Approval Rating Sinks to 29%

Three Major Telecom Companies Help US Government Spy on Millions of Americans

USA Today has revealed the National Security Agency is secretly collecting the phone call records of millions of Americans with the help of AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth. For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others. One source told the paper that the NSA is attempting to create the world's largest database -- big enough to include every call ever made within the nation's borders.

The Yes Men Strike Again: Group Poses As Halliburton Reps At "Catastrophic Loss" Conference

The Yes Men have struck again. On Tuesday, a man claiming to be a representative of Halliburton gave a presentation at the "Catastrophic Loss" conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Florida. Conference attendees include leaders from the insurance industry. We speak with the Yes Men's Andy Bichlbaum, who took part in the hoax. [includes rush transcript]

Mothers Say No To War: Peace Activists Plan Mother's Day Protest Outside White House

Sunday is Mother's Day and a group of women have chosen to honor it by calling for peace. Women from all over the country are gathering in Washington D.C this weekend and will be holding an all night vigil outside the White House to demand that the troops be brought home from Iraq. We’re joined by Elaine Johnson and Cindy Sheehan, who both lost sons in Iraq.

Iraq snapshot.

Chaos and violence.

As Sabrina Tavernise noted, Thursday "was . . . the deadliest day for the American military in a month, with the deaths of seven service members and the announcement of an eighth death that had occurred on Tuesday." This did not include the death of four marines on Thursday when, as reported by the Associated Press, a "tank rolled off a bridge into a canal" resulting in the drowning deaths of four marines.

Thursday was also the day that Nikola Radovanovic denied that Bosnia had shipped "200,00 small arms to Iraq in a secret and non-trasnperanet fashion" (China's Xinhua).
Amnesty International has made the charges that Radovanovic (Defense Minister of Bosnia) was denying. The charges come in a report on how the transfer of arms threatens human rights.

Today? The Shia party Islamic Virture has withdrawn from cabinet negotiations. The BBC notes that party spokesperson Sabah al-Saadi has "criticised what he said were external pressures from the US ambassador in Iraq." A joint story by CBS and AP, identifying the party as Fadhila, notes that the criticism also includes the assertion that "the Cabinet selection process was being dictated by personal interests and pressure by the United States that ran counter to the spirit of national unity." As cabinet negotiations continue to fail to meet the much touted timetable, Reuters reports that a "bomb in a parked car" went off outside the office of Dawa (the Shi'ite party of Nuri al-Maliki). The AFP notes that Nuri al-Maliki (Iraq's prime minister to be) continues to to tell "the ambassadors of Britain and Iran that the cabinet would be ready in the next 'few days.'" Al Jazeera notes that the real timetable, constitutional as opposed to the one al-Maliki has promised and missed, leaves only ten days to meet the "one-month constitutional deadline to present his cabinet to parliament."

In Baghdad, CNN reports, an Iraqi soldier was killed in an attack on a convoy. Reuters notes the death of Ahmed Midhat Mahmoud and two of his bodyguards as a result of an ambush (Mahmoud was "the son of a senior judge). Kuna identifies Mahmoud as the "son of chief of Iraqi judicial council." The Associated Press notes that a police officer was killed with at least two more wounded as a result of drive by shootings. Road side bombs continued in Baghdad, at least one resulted in no deaths or casualties but another resulted in one police officer being wounded.

The Associated Press notes that Basra saw violence as Sheik Khalil Ibrahim and his son were killed as they departed the Sunni Khudairi mosque.

Kuna reports that, in Tal Afar, an attack on a police patrol resulted in three being wounded (police officers) and two being killed (attackers).

In Dhuluiya, the BBC notes, at least four Iraqi soldiers have died and at least seven civilians have been wounded as people clash with "Iraqi forces."

Throughout Iraq, corpses continued to turn up. Reuters notes four ("military uniform, two of them beheaded") being discovered in Khan Bani Saad and one ("gunshot wounds to the head and . . . signs of torture) being discovered in Baghdad while KUNA also notes the discovery of a corpse in Sadr City ("blindfolded, with hands bound and the victim appears to have been shot dead."). Al Jazeera notes the kidnapping of Carlo Daccache "snatched on Friday in Baghdad by unidentified armed men."

In the United States, Congress member John Murtha has told the Associated Press that he predicts America will brings its troops home "by 2007" as a result of the Bully Boy "bow[ing] to public pressure or [because] Democrats will have won control of the House of Representatives."

Finally, as noted this morning on Democracy Now!, an event sponsored by CODEPINK and other organizations will take place Saturday and Sunday in DC:

Declare peace on Mother's Day with CODEPINK! We will be gathering in Washington DC for a 24-hour vigil outside the White House on May 13-14, and will be joined by amazing celebrity actresses, singers, writers, and moms, including Cindy Sheehan, Patch Adams, and Susan Sarandon! Bring your mother, children, grandmothers, friends, and loved ones. We will be honoring the mothers of the fallen by sending them organic roses. Click here to send your rose! We're also writing letters to Laura Bush to appeal to her own mother-heart, turning them into a book, "Letters to Laura." For event info click here, read our blogs and check out our online store for gift ideas.

On Sarandon, Molly notes "Sarandon Got Death Threats Over Iraq" (CBS/AP):

"If you ask somebody and you explain to them the future of their children, the future of their world, that's not supposed to be a radical idea at all," she said. "And, you know, who are those 32 percent that still approve of bush? That would be your right wing. The rest of the country is saying he's not doing a good job."
The actress also said there was a backlash in Hollywood for her public stance against the war. She said "certain people in the business" called for boycotts against her.
"I don't think that I thought that I'd really never work again, but when there is nobody else, when you look out on the field and everybody is quiet and they're all looking away and nobody's saying anything, it's a really scary place to be," she said.
Sarandon condemned Democrats for failing to stand up to the Bush administration's Iraq policy -- even though she hopes a Democrat will win the White House in 2008.
"Everybody is so cautious and just trying to get elected, just trying to stay in office," she said.

Two more highlights. First, Billie wonders if we forgot it was Thursday? (I usally do.) She steers us to Margaret Kimberley's "Shelby Steele Loves White Supremacy" (Freedom Rider, The Black Commentator):

Shelby Steele is a well known black conservative, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, a leading right wing think tank. Steele has made a lucrative career for himself by lambasting black people and praising white people. He says that racism is all in the past, that all is right with the world and it is up to black people to admit it and stop complaining.
Recently on the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal Steele outdid himself. Steele lamented that white people just aren't as vicious as they used to be. He believes that the legacy of slavery, segregation and American imperialism left a terrible legacy on white people. Of course, the worst impact was on the oppressed and subjugated, but Steele isn't very worried about the legacy the past left on them.
According to Steele, ever since World War II the U.S. just doesn't mistreat brown skinned people the way it used to. He says that white people just feel too guilty and don't utilize sufficient vigor when blowing countries to bits. Steele claims that, "Certainly since Vietnam, America has increasingly practiced a policy of minimalism and restraint in war."
Perhaps he lives in an alternate universe. Every opinion poll indicated that the majority of white Americans applauded their government's decision to occupy, kill and steal in Iraq. Most of those who now oppose the occupation do so because victory wasn’t swift, not because they truly think their government was wrong.

Second, Eddie notes "Hayden Enabled the Breaking of the Law: Tyranny Creeps in on the Feet of Fog" (BuzzFlash):

Okay, BuzzFlash has to admit it.
Sometimes, we feel like we are in an auditorium, watching a cliched, tiresome play. We notice smoke and then fire licking at the side walls of the theater. We start to shout, "Fire, Fire!"
But no one seems to hear. The audience just sits in rapt attention, in deep thrall as the soap opera unfolds on stage.
Take for instance, yesterday.
General Hayden "made the rounds" on Capitol Hill and the mainstream press reported on what a nice reception he received. Olympia Snow, the moderate Republican -- for election purposes only -- announced she would likely vote for him, and others chimed in. Once again, even though Bush's polls are lower than a limbo bar lying on a floor, the Bush fairy dust (or is it political anthrax) has descended on Capitol Hill -- and the media is treating it as just another appointment, albeit with a little bit of mild controversy, but nothing serious mind you.
We've railed against the appointment of Hayden since the White House first leaked that he was going to be nominated immediately after Goss walked the plank for any number of reasons not disclosed to us. We've stated a number of reservations, but nothing is more egregious and dangerous to our Constitution than that Hayden oversaw the Bush Administration's illegal foreign and domestic spying while head of the NSA.
In short, Hayden is a lawbreaker. The courts haven't determined that yet, but if you brazenly rob a bank and there are a hundred witnesses (in this case about 300 million), then you broke the law. Bush even admits he made an "end run" around the FISA court and law passed by Congress. Hayden oversaw the implementation of the illegal activity. Case closed.
Today, USA Today reports, in detail, that Bush, with hard evidence proving that he lied, authorized domestic spying, particularly the gathering of information on nearly every phone call made in the United States. This is illegal and an abonimal affront to the Constitution. This is, as we note in our headline, something that would make the late Leonid Brezhnev proud of Bush -- and Hayden, the Pentagon apparatchik, who saw it through.
But there's more (much more than we can detail in this editorial). Hayden refused to tell a Congressional hearing awhile back that the NSA was not spying for political purposes. Similarly, Alberto "Consigliere" Gonzales, at a Congressional hearing, would not answer the same question. In short, the Bush administration is, it appears, spying for political purposes.

Betty's planning to post her latest chapter tonight. Carl urges everyone to read Mike's "Barry Bonds, Repubes drool over tax breaks, peace activists go to Iran" Susan urges everyone to read Kat's "Guns & Butter and the crappy 1000th issue of Rolling Stone."
Tomorrow's Saturday, remember Trina posts on Saturday.

The e-mail address for this site is