Saturday, May 27, 2006

NYT: Repubes attack the press (KPFA's Sunday Salon this Sunday -- conscientious objectors addressed)

Recent disclosures of classified information by the press have damaged national security, several Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee said Friday at a hearing on news organizations' legal responsibilities.
The criticism focused on articles in The New York Times concerning a National Security Agency surveillance program and, to a lesser extent, on disclosures in The Washington Post about secret C.I.A. prisons overseas.
Some Republicans on the committee advocated the criminal prosecution of The Times. Their comments partly echoed and partly amplified recent statements by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales that the Justice Department had the authority to prosecute reporters for publishing classified information.

The above is from Adam Liptak's "Panel Is Told Disclosures Pose Danger to Security" in this morning's New York Times. The most interesting question isn't asked: why the activities were done in the first place? The press reported it. That is their job. A democracy is only as strong as its citizenry (we're not very strong currently, my opinion). The how-could-they! cry of Republicans is a nice way of defocusing from the fact that activities took place.

The press should report what happens. Always. That's their duty in a democracy (one that the mainstream often fails at). But Republicans (and an idiot from Commentary -- "idiot from Commentary" may be redundant) want to focus on the exposure. The exposure isn't the issue, the activities are. But you'll note there's no cry for hearings on that. Apparently the posturing factor on that isn't as high as it is when you can blame the press for reporting governmental actions that betray what we are supposed to stand for.

Congress have forgotten that they represent the people. The last six years have led to many thinking they serve to protect the Bully Boy. (True also of those serving in the administration.)
They don't. Regardless of who is in the White House, Congress is supposed to represent the people. That doesn't mean treating them like children or hiding reality.

I'll slam the Times for anything without pause. I'm not a cheerleader for the paper. (And would love to not cover it but the community wants it covered, so it is.) I'll slam them for sitting on the NSA story for over a year. I won't slam them for finally printing it (even though that was pushed/prodded by the publication of James Risen's book). The paper actually did its job (and appears to be taking 2006 off as a result).

Congress shouldn't be fretting over (and posturing) the paper, they should be pursuing the information that came out (as well as what came out in Dana Priest's Washington Post article -- but we don't comment on the Post here). Maybe the most embarrassing thing for the posturing voices is not that the exposures laid bare two hideous, undemocratic, evil practices? Maybe what's most embarrassing is the fact that many people will wonder where Congress was?

Where was Congress? For the past six years, where has it been? The Times has largely snoozed (as anyone who's followed the Sibel Edmonds* case knows -- to offer one example).

What's Congress' excuse? They have none. They can point fingers and they can huff and puff but the exposure isn't the issue, what's being exposed is. How did that ever happen in the first place? Not the exposure, the activity? Until they want to address that, they can keep hoping to change the news cycle but most Americans have caught on to the fact that they've trashed their office and shirked their responsibilities by not doing their job.

Peter Hoekstra can puff his chest and spew his empty mind with comments about "The press is not above the law" and anything else. It doesn't change the fact that (despite the Bully Boy's attempts) the United States is built on a system of three branches. Whomever occupies the White House is always answerable to the people. The occupant is also supposed to be checked by Congress and the judiciary. How we managed to get to our current state does involve a lazy press, no question, but the press shirking their duties is sad, Congress doing the same is deplorable because they took oaths to uphold the Constitution.

The press isn't the issue on this. I'd love to slap them down if they were. The issue is that things are going on that aren't American, that aren't democratic. Their exposure is not the issue. The activities themselves are the issue.

The press isn't above the law. There are libel and slander guidelines. We do not, however, have a national secrets law. (England does.) The issue isn't that the press informed the public, the revelation isn't the issue. What was revealed is. Until Congress wants to seriously address that, they're betraying the public and not living up to their sworn duties.

[*Don't know Sibel Edmond's case? Google and you can pull up her site. A link was included and it wiped out eight paragraphs. I'm not in the mood to attempt to put a link back in this morning -- I'm barely in the mood to attempt to recreate what's been lost as a result of attempting to link.]

Erika notes Monica Davey's "Drive for Vote on Abortion Accelerates:"

Advocates of abortion rights were planning a final push this weekend for signatures to a petition that could send South Dakota's ban on abortion, which was intended as a direct legal challenge to the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, to a statewide vote in November.
The advocates had intended to file the signatures -- more than 16,000 are required to bring a law passed by the state legislature to the voters -- several weeks from now, the deadline under their interpretation of a state law providing for such referendums.
But they said on Friday that they had heard talk from supporters of the ban about a possible legal challenge to the referendum, based on how quickly the petitions needed to be filed. As a result, the advocates said, they have decided to take the signatures to Pierre, the state capital, on Tuesday to avoid any debate over timing.

And we'll close out the Times with Richard A. Oppel's Jr.'s "Iraq Official Says Iran Has Right to Atomic Power Goal:"

The Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, on Friday endorsed the right of Iran to pursue the "technological and scientific capabilities" to create nuclear power for peaceful purposes, but shied away from the subject of uranium enrichment, which the United States says could allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon.
[. . .]
On Friday, insurgents struck targets including a market in western Baghdad and a bus garage in eastern Baghdad, killing as many as 20 Iraqis, according to some reports, in attacks that used homemade bombs. In Kirkuk, a bomb killed a policeman while assassins killed two other officers, the local police reported.
And on Thursday, gunmen barged into a wedding in Muqdadiya, northeast of Baghdad, kidnapping the groom, his uncle, his cousin and another guest. On Friday, the bodies of all four men were found beheaded, the police said, Reuters reported. Reuters also reported that gunmen in Baghdad killed a coach and two players from Iraq's national tennis team.

Martha notes Ellen Kinckmeyer's "In Haditha, Memories of a Massacre: Iraqi Townspeople Describe Slaying of 24 Civilians by Marines in Nov. 19 Incident" (Washington Post):

Witnesses to the slaying of 24 Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines in the western town of Haditha say the Americans shot men, women and children at close range in retaliation for the death of a Marine lance corporal in a roadside bombing.
Aws Fahmi, a Haditha resident who said he watched and listened from his home as Marines went from house to house killing members of three families, recalled hearing his neighbor across the street, Younis Salim Khafif, plead in English for his life and the lives of his family members. "I heard Younis speaking to the Americans, saying: 'I am a friend. I am good,' " Fahmi said. "But they killed him, and his wife and daughters."

How much will this story matter? A few e-mails contain that question. It doesn't help the story to break on Memorial Day weekend. (Or to be largely ignored by the Times.) But my guess (and I could be wrong and often am) is that it's not 'buriable.' It may be white-washable and that wouldn't be surprising. But I think it's out there enough and being reported enough that people are aware of it. Possibly it being a holiday weekend has interfered with the usual "it's not a story!" cheerleaders like John Corny and the other boys of Orrin Hatch.

Zach notes Robert Parry's "Bush's Enron Lies:"

Four years ago, when the taboo against calling George W. Bush a liar was even stronger than it is today, the national news media bought into the Bush administration’s spin that the President did nothing to bail out his Enron benefactors, including Kenneth Lay.
Bush supposedly refused to intervene, despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Enron had poured into his political coffers. That refusal purportedly showed the high ethical standards that set Bush apart from lesser politicians.
Bush's defenders will probably reprise that storyline now that former Enron Chairman Lay and former Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Skilling stand convicted of conspiracy and fraud in the plundering of the onetime energy-trading giant. But the reality is that the Bush-can't-be-bought spin was never true.
For instance, the documentary evidence is now clear that in summer 2001 -- at the same time Bush's National Security Council was ignoring warnings about an impending al-Qaeda terrorist attack -- NSC adviser Condoleezza Rice was personally overseeing a government-wide task force to pressure India to give Enron as much as $2.3 billion.
Then, even after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when India’s cooperation in the "war on terror" was crucial, the Bush administration kept up its full-court press to get India to pay Enron for a white-elephant power plant that the company had built in Dabhol, India.
The pressure on India went up the chain of command to Vice President Dick Cheney, who personally pushed Enron's case, and to Bush himself, who planned to lodge a complaint with India's prime minister. Post-9/11, one senior U.S. bureaucrat warned India that failure to give in to Enron's demands would put into doubt the future functioning of American agencies in India.
The NSC-led Dabhol campaign didn't end until Nov. 8, 2001, when the Securities and Exchange Commission raided Enron's offices -- and protection of Lay's interests stopped being politically tenable. That afternoon, Bush was sent an e-mail advising him not to raise his planned Dabhol protest with India's prime minister who was visiting Washington. [For details on the Dabhol case, see below.]
Contrary to the official story, the Bush administration did almost whatever it could to help Enron as the company desperately sought cash to cover mounting losses from its off-the-books partnerships, a bookkeeping black hole that was sucking Enron toward bankruptcy and scandal.

Two things on the highlight above. Along with pushing India before and after to support Enron, the month of August 2001, while on vacation, Bully Boy fretted over stem cells instead of addressing national security ("No one could have guessed!" hisses Condi). If you've forgotten that detail, pick up Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq. It's a book worth reading. Pick it up at bookstores, order online or use your libraries. Trisha e-mailed this week to say she'd just read it and loved the book. (You will too.) She wondered why I often mentioned Lost History but rarely did S&P? First of all, I usually get the title wrong (when talking to friends) and call it "Secrecy & Lies." (Dilip Hiro has a wonderful book entitled Secrets and Lies.) Lost History is a title even I can't mess up. It's also true that what the United States government did (and does) in Latin America is so rarely addressed. But both books by Parry are worth reading (as are others -- we've discussed two at The Third Estate Sunday Review).

So that was one. Two, Zach's highlight gets double play. Rebecca's noting it at her site. She called this morning and we've been on the phone working out who's grabbing what (she's grabbing two articles from the Times: David Johnston's and Carl Hulse's "Gonzales Said He Would Quit in Raid Dispute'' and Eric Pfanner's "Times of London to Print Daily U.S. Edition") because she ended up with time on her hand and decided to do an entry. So be sure to check out Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude.

Billy notes this from Danny Schechter's News Dissector:

Resistance Cinema is showing two great films this coming Sunday -- "STILL WE RIDE" a new film on the bicycle group "Critical Mass" and the NYC police crackdown on them during the RNC in 2004. Then at 2pm we screen David Zeiger's new award winning film "SIR! NO SIR!" on GI resistance to the Vietnam war.
WHEN: Sunday May 28, 1:15 pm

WHERE: Community Church Of NYC, 40 east 35th st. @ Park ave
ADMISSION: Free: We will be making a special effort to collect donations to go towards defraying the costs of making the film.

What's coming up here? "Kat's Korner: Dixie Chicks Taking The Long Way home while NYT gets lost along the way" was Kat's review Thursday if you missed it. She's posting here today. A review as well as a heads up to RadioNation with Laura Flanders. We may have a surprise entry and we'll have Maria doing the run down of some of the important headlines Democracy Now! covered this week. An English speaking only member wondered why he couldn't listen to the Spanish headlines? You can. I checked with Maria. It's a Spanish link at the top that has "MP3" in the link. Maria says that the "listen to segement" isn't how you listen to the Spanish headlines. You click on the MP3 and a few seconds later it should begin playing. Regardless of why you're listening or reading the Spanish headlines -- because your fluent in Spanish (native tongue or a language that you learned), to brush up on your Spanish, to learn a little about Spanish, or to share with friends who speak Spanish -- both the listening and the reading options are available.

RadioNation with Laura Flanders is new shows this weekend (Saturday & Sunday). Anthony Arnove (IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal) is a guest for Saturday's show and Sunday features a discussion on books with people from independent bookstores. There are many other guests and Kat will note them later today but, in case anyone's wondering since it's a holiday, Flanders will have new episodes of RadioNation with Laura Flanders which you can listen to over the airwaves or by using the link and listening on your computer (if you're able to listen on your computer).

Sunday on KPFA's Sunday Salon (time given is Pacific):

This week on Sunday Salon...
Hour 1: Conscientious objectors -
Hour 2: Reduce your travel woes

Where is the coverage of the war resistors? That's a constant in the e-mails from members. They wonder why it's not in the magazines they read or the programs they watch or listen to?
(I wonder as well.) Where is it? Sunday, on KPFA, it's on hour one of Sunday Salon. You can listen online, without any registration or any fee. Larry Bensky's the host (as most members should know) so it should be more than worth making the time to listen to -- especially if you're someone wishing the topic would be covered more.

Two more highlights on the peace movement. First, Genie notes Karen Houppert's "Cindy Sheehan: Mother of a Movement?" (The Nation):

In the months since, Cindy Sheehan has emerged as the symbol of the antiwar movement, drawing crowds of well-wishers, counterprotesters and a slew of media to each of her many appearances across the nation and abroad. She is credited with galvanizing a nation whose approval rating of the President on Iraq was slipping to a dangerous 40 percent and injecting life into a sluggish peace movement. Sheehan's "fifteen minutes of fame" have stretched out to nearly fifteen months. She has rocketed from the obscurity of a low-key suburban California life where she did administrative work for the county--and before that worked for nine years as a youth minister at the local Catholic church--to Diane Sawyer's couch, Chris Matthews's hot seat and just about every national news program in between. Though she says she has always been politically left of center and admits that she opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, she was not an activist and had never spoken publicly against the war until July 4, 2004, three months after her son's death, when she addressed an antiwar crowd at a local church.
Today, she is more famous than anyone in a peace movement that lies poised on the brink of change: Public opinion has swung against the war--thanks in equal parts to antiwar activists and to Bush's own hubris and blunders--but this shift in Americans' thinking has yet to translate into significant changes in policy or leadership. At this critical juncture, all eyes are trained on Sheehan.

Second, as Memorial Day approaches, we can all pay attention to Mia's highlight, Missy Comley Beattie's "Stuck in a Cake-Walk War" (CounterPunch):

At first it was the "cakewalk" war. That morphed into "when we capture Saddam." Then, we heard "after the elections" followed by the nauseatingly platitudinous "we won't step down 'til they step up."
Now, it's the "long war" or the "Global War on Terror." Translation: The never-ending war.
How many deployments does it take to psychologically destroy a Marine? For some, it's one or two. For others, it's three or four.
How many deployments until a soldier just says "no" and crosses the border into Canada or goes missing in America?
How many deployments until a soldier decides that suicide is better than going back to back in Iraq. Or back to back to back to back?
The recruitment requirement for soldiers will be never-ending. Because never-ending war means never-ending injuries, both physical and psychological. Because never-ending war means never-ending death.

By the way, to those wondering about the Memorial Day weekend, at this site today and tomorrow will be our basic schedule we have every weekend. On Monday, there will be an entry on the news and (much later probably) one on Democracy Now! and possibly the Times.

The e-mail address for this site is And Rebecca's entry is "kpfa's sunday salon features a discuss on conscientious objectors this sunday!" (it just went up).