Friday, July 08, 2005

Democracy Now: On London and Damu Smith; Bob Somerby, Jude, Margaret Kimberly, Grace Lee Boggs, BuzzFlash's GOP Hypocrite of the Week ...

Egyptian Diplomat Executed, Cairo Closes Mission
Egypt says it is temporarily shutting down its diplomatic mission in Iraq and has recalled its staff to Cairo, after a militant group claimed to have killed Egypt's top envoy in Baghdad. Cairo also asked the U.N. Security Council on Thursday to urgently address the issue of protecting diplomats in Iraq. A group identifying itself as Al-Qaida in Iraq said in a posting on a web forum that it killed the Egyptian ambassador, who was kidnapped from a Baghdad street late Saturday only weeks after he took up his post in the Iraqi capital. It posted a short video of the diplomat being questioned, but did not show his slaying.
FBI Whistleblower for Congress
Former FBI agent Coleen Rowley, who landed on the cover of Time magazine after blowing the whistle on the nation's pre 9/11 security lapses, announced this week that she is running for congress against two-term incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline in Minnesota. Rowley was a strong opponent of the invasion of Iraq. Rowley said, "We must reclaim a foreign policy ethic that restores America as first among equals and shakes off this terribly distorted image of America as the Lone Ranger, shooting from the hip."
The two headlines above (selected by Micah and Liang) are from Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says).
Headlines for July 8, 2005

- London Death Toll Climbs to 50
- US Mass Transit at Code Orange
- FOX News Hosts Celebrate London Attacks
- Egyptian Diplomat Executed, Cairo Closes Mission
- Saddam's Top Lawyer Quits
- FBI Whistleblower for Congress
- Anti-Chavez Figure Indicted
- NATO Deploys African Peacekeepers in Sudan
British Antiwar MP George Galloway: "London Has Reaped Blair's Involvement in Iraq"

We spend the hour looking at the terror attacks in London. At least 50 people are dead and hundreds wounded in the worst attack in that city since World War II. We go to London to get reaction from British antiwar MP George Galloway, author and Guardian columnist George Monbiot and journalist Stephen Grey of the Sunday Times of London.
America's Rail Security: Is the Government Doing Enough to Protect U.S. Transit Systems?

A group of critics inside and outside of government are accusing the Bush administration of not focusing enough on protecting the country's public transit systems. We speak with Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) who introduced the Safe TRAINS Act, the president of the American Public Transportation Association William Millar and Stephen Flynn, a retired U.S. Coast Guard commander and an expert on homeland security and border control.
Longtime Peace Activist Damu Smith Launches Campaign to Battle Colon Cancer

We speak with Damu Smith founder of Black Voices for Peace and executive director of the National Black Environmental Justice Network. For more than three decades, Damu has worked tirelessly on the frontlines of the anti-war and environmental justice movements. Last month, he was diagnosed with colon cancer in its advanced stages. He is now seeking treatment.
We missed The Daily Howler yesterday so we'll pick up Thursday's today.  Note that Bob Somerby has a critique of the press reaction to Judith Miller ("But even by the corps' own standards, today's editorials and "news reports" about Judith Miller are masterworks of self-interest.") but we're going to focus, as we did on Wednesday, with his comments regarding our education system and testing:

But there's one big problem with Mei's response. All her authorities stand to gain if those pleasing test scores are real. The mayor has said that the score gains are real--but then, he's running for re-election. The test companies say that the score gains are real--but they are the ones who were paid to devise them. And Dr. Mei says that the score gains are real--but she gets fired if they're phony. Trust us, the good doctor said. Trust us--even though everyone I cite is an interested party.

Yes, an array of powerful interests gain when city test scores show a steep rise--even if the rise is phony. Mayors gain. Superintendents gain. And teachers get to ask for more money! The only ones who wouldn't gain from a hoax are the urban children themselves--the kids whose lives have often been used as the platform for the fraudulent test scores. Even in the case of a hoax, many people gain from good test scores. Which brings us to something we were told long ago about where some score gains may come from.

On a personal level, we had known about hoaxes in the Baltimore schools since the 1970-71 school year. (We had several friends in a widely-praised school--a school which was blatantly cheating, in every way possible.) We had written on this general problem for the Baltimore Sun and Evening Sun. We had consulted with Dr. John Cannell, who created a nationwide flap with his report, "The Lake Wobegon Effect" (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/19/01.) And in the course of our research, we had developed a telephone friendship with a very high source--a very high-ranking executive for one of the nation's most widely-used standardized test programs. And uh-oh! On one occasion near the end of our relationship, this high-placed fellow--let's call him "Steep Throat"--gave us an unforgettable lesson in where some steep score gains may come from.

On this occasion, "Throat" surprised us by revealing that he would soon be stepping down from his post. The reason? He felt that his company could no longer compete with a rival test battery. Over the course of the previous several years, the rival battery had been taking market share from Steep's well-known standardized test. One major reason? As everyone knew, systems which used the rival test tended to crank out some very good test scores! On this day, Steep Throat told us something that people suspected within his own company; they suspected that the rival company was faking its norms in order to generate those pleasing, high test scores. We can't compete unless we fake our norms too, Steep said. And so he was giving up--changing careers.

From The Black Commentator (new issue every Thursday), we'll note Glen Ford and Peter Gamble's "PBS Shills for a Black Trojan Horse:"

The media campaign to impose Cory Booker, rich white people's favorite Black politician, on Black America, has begun in earnest -- again. Booker, the one-term Newark city councilman who challenged Mayor Sharpe James in 2002, is making another run next year, and is certain to raise millions of dollars through his deep connections to the corporate Right, and to benefit from millions more in free publicity from corporate media.

The Public Broadcasting System, which is far more corporate than public, donated 90 minutes of free propaganda time to Booker on Tuesday night, in the P.O.V. pseudo-documentary, “Street Fight” -- a disgraceful presentation totally devoid of journalistic merit. Lies of omission are still lies, and what was omitted in "Street Fight" was the core issue of the 2002 campaign, the issue that led to Booker's defeat: his intimate entanglement with rightwing forces that are totally inimical to Black interests.

We at The Black Commentator ought to know, since we provided Mayor Sharpe James (and our readers) with the ammunition that sank Booker's ship -- that he is, as we wrote in our inaugural issue, "a cynical pretender who attempts to position himself as the common people's defender while locked in the deep embrace of institutes and foundations that bankroll virtually every assault on social and economic justice in America." (See BC, "The Hard Right’s Plan to Capture Newark, NJ," April 5, 2002.)

Cory Booker is, in a phrase coined by Harvard’s Dr. Martin Kilson, a Black Trojan Horse "functioning as an errand boy Black politician for [the] conservative Republican power-class." His political buoyancy -- despite being out of public office for three years -- is derived from a rightwing network that cultivated the Yale and Stanford graduate as their own Great Black Hope, building him a bigger war chest than a four-term incumbent mayor who is the most powerful Black politician in the state. Those same forces lobbied corporate media to make Booker their Golden Boy, resulting in the most intensive coverage of a Newark election since Kenneth Gibson became the first Black mayor of the city in 1970 -- all of it fawningly favorable to Booker.

The reactionary columnist George F. Will even came to Newark to put a gloss on the Booker campaign. ABC News attempted to sucker Mayor James into engaging Booker in a nationally televised debate, an event that would have given Booker a country-wide platform as a New Black Leader. Wisely, Mayor James refused. The far-right Free Congress Foundation praised Booker as one of four "New Black Leaders" -- along with three Black Republicans.

Cedric e-mails to remind us not to forget to note Margaret Kimberly's latest this week, "Not Another Clarence Thomas:"

As I write we don't know who Bush, Rove and the Federalist Society will choose. Yet one thing is already a certainty. The nominee will have a philosophy that is anathema to anyone dedicated to justice in our society. That will be true even if the nominee is black.

Think back, if you can bear it, to Clarence Thomas' nomination hearings. The drama of that moment revolved around charges of sexual harassment. Despite the sensational testimony and lurid headlines it was all for entertainment purposes only. Clarence Thomas was and is a dedicated right wing ideologue who is also utterly incompetent. After years on the Supreme Court Thomas sits silently like a bump on a log while his colleagues probe the most important questions of the day with the best attorneys in the country.

At the time of his nomination it was said that we shouldn't worry about Thomas being a conservative. He was a black man after all. He knew the troubles we had seen and was therefore safer than a white person with the same political views.

It turned out that only Antonin Scalia was as conservative as Thomas. Republican appointees David Souter , Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor sometimes acted as the swing votes on the court. Not so for brother Clarence. The joke was on his defenders. Thomas was exactly as advertised. He never claimed to be more enlightened than his right wing brethren and he didn’t disappoint anyone who was really paying attention to his record.

Liang e-mails to note Grace Lee Boggs' "Seven Great Ideas for Movement Builders" (from Yes!):

As a Black Power activist in the 1960s, I identified more with Malcolm than with Martin.

However, my studies of King’s struggles with the urban crisis during the three years from the Watts uprising until his assassination in April 1968 have taught me a lot about the difference between radical organizing and movement leadership.

Radical organizers concentrate on mobilizing masses to protest against the system. Their main aim is increasing militancy and numbers. On the other hand, movement leaders recognize the almost pathological fear and despair that oppression creates and therefore the need for the oppressed to find creative ways to move beyond fear to hope, and beyond despair to transformation.

Please note that Rebecca  noted a column by Grace Lee Boggs on Wednesday.

Elaine e-mails to note Christine's "W and the 'Reuters Man'" (Ms. Musing):


Last month, ms.musings pointed to President Bush's reluctance to call on female reporters at news conferences. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said it was the media's fault -- "The President believes it's important to get to those major media outlets and start the news conference that way. And if it's a question of diversity within those organizations, I think it's a question to direct to those organizations, not us."

If only it were that simple.

Bush goofed again during a stop in Denmark enroute to Scotland Tuesday, notes Salon's Tim Grieve:

Bush apparently wanted to take a question from Reuters, so he shouted out, "Reuters man, Toby." Only it turns out that "Reuters man, Toby" is Tabassum Zakaria, who happens to be a woman.

Bush immediately corrected himself, then made matters worse. "Woman -- excuse me, I can see that," he said. "So how long have you been on the presidential beat?" When Zakaria said that she'd been covering the White House since February, Bush told her, "Yes, well, make yourself less scarce."

Lloyd e-mails to note one of two "This Just Ins" from Matthew Rothschild. The first one is entitled "Terror Shows Its Face:"

This is the face of barbarism.

This is the face of nihilism.

The Al Qaeda attack in London on the morning of July 7 will go down in history as a futile spasm of a deranged group that thinks nothing of targeting innocent people.

The bombs killed at least 38 Londoners and wounded about 700 others, the BBC reported late on the day of the attack.

The Secret Organization Group of Al Qaeda of Jihad Organization in Europe bragged about carrying out the assault, according to the BBC, which located a statement by the group on the web.

As for the second one "Lessons of the London Attack," it's not pulling up.  Hopefully it will be up later today so check The Progressive website later today if you're interested.

The Nation arrived in the mailbox yesterday and, since it's a double issue, I'm not behind. But I will note that Patricia J. Williamson's columns are always a personal highlight of any issue they appear in despite the fact that The Nation doesn't make them available online (unless you're a subscriber).  I'll type up the first two paragraphs of her latest, "Extrajudicial Activism," and hopefully, if you're interested, you'll seek out the issue at bookstores or libraries.  Regardless, she's a voice we should be aware of.  From "Extrajudicial Activism:"

A few weeks ago, I was going through some of my father's photo albums from the early 1930s, when he was in high school in Georgia.  Among them was a picture of a prison gang, of black men dressed in black-and-white-striped uniforms, chained at the ankles, hoeing the field next-door to the school.  At the moment the album fell open to this particula picture, the media was abuzz with Senator Dick Curbin's apology for comparing Guantanamo Bay to Nazi camps and Stalnist gulags.  The air was highly charged because Amnesty International had made similar acusations; the Red Cross was expressing concern that American doctors were overseeing the administration of torture; the American Civil Liberties Union was expressing outrage that the government was using specious categorizations of "material witness" status to detain people without charge; the Italian government was indicting CIA agents for snatching an Italian citizen and sending him to Egypt to be tortured.  There were investigations of thirty-three deaths of detainees in various American camps around the world (there has been little official accounting for those deaths and little public outcry at the lack thereof.)  And the Center for Constitutional Rights was calling attention to the one-year anniversary of its Supreme Court victory in winning access to federal courts for detainees.  Unfortunately, this decision has not resulted in a single detainee having enjoyed a judicial hearing or been privy to any evidence against him, for the Administration has maintained that although enemy combatants may have "access" to the courts, they have no constituional rights the United States is bound to respect.

As I meditated upon this messy time of ours, it seemed to me that the comparison to Hitler and Stalin is undoubtedly doomed for dismissal as an unconscionably disproportionate overstatement and that the better, if no less upsetting, comparison is to our own history of dual justice during the time of Jim Crow.  Also in the news was the conviction of Edgar Ray Killen, the Klansman who planned the murders of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi, during the summer of 1964.  National attention had been sparked by the fact that two of the victims were white men.  During the search for them authorities found at least nine other bodies, the remains of black men whose disappearences and murders had attracted no publicity at all.

Available online is William Greider's "Profiles in Cowardice."  Greider's a voice we should all be aware of (and I think the community largely is).  We'll note his "Profiles in Cowardice:"

In the glow after last fall's election victory, Grover Norquist, ringmaster for the right's tax-cutting circus, mischievously compared minority Democrats in Congress to a bunch of neutered farm animals. Once snipped, he said, they can be counted on to accept comfortably "the finality of their powerlessness." Norquist often employs such tasteless metaphors. He also often gets the politics right.

At this moment, Senate Democrats are preparing to take a dive on the issue they have righteously hammered for four years--repeal of the estate tax--and they intend to call this "victory." The Dems want to negotiate a "compromise" with Senate Republicans that will restore the inheritance tax while reducing the rate at which estates are taxed and exempting many more families who are rich but not extremely rich. Yet the outlines of what Democrats are pursuing looks like a monstrous giveaway. It would yield roughly $420 billion in tax relief for the very wealthiest families. Indeed, the bipartisan bargaining may wind up producing far greater revenue losses. When wobbly-kneed Democrats set out to negotiate with hard-nosed Republicans on taxes, the Republic is very likely the loser.

This cave-in would make a joke of Democrats' fervent demands for fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets. Forget all their rants about growing income inequality and shameful Republican tax cuts for the rich. The "reform" proposal circulating among Dems would surrender 55 percent of the estate-tax revenue that would otherwise be gained by the government. This windfall would go to something like 160,000 families and leave a huge hole in the federal tax base. Some victory.

Bryan e-mails to note another critique of Dems, this one from CounterPunch -- John Walsh's "More Hawkish Than Bush: Democrats in Full Battle Cry:"

The Democrats' response to Bush's lies was so strikingly at odds with the role of an opposition party that it drew attention even in some quarters of the mass media. Joan Vennochi, for one, ordinarily a mild-mannered columnist for the Boston Globe, took note in a column, "Democrats Buy into Bush's War"(1). Vennochi was right on target when she concluded that: "If you listen carefully, you realize Democrats like Kerry and Biden are saying that this war is being fought the wrong way, not that this is the wrong war. They have bought into the Karl Rove argument that might makes right." Vennochi focuses a lot of attention on John Kerry who continues to press for more troops as he has since before the election. But Kerry goes even further now, responding to a TV interviewer as Vennochi reports: '''Is Bush getting an unfair shake?' (asked the interviewer). Kerry answered: 'To some degree, I think that's true. And I've said that publicly. We've made progress (in Iraq).' Kerry also rejected Senator Edward M. Kennedy's labeling of Iraq as 'an intractable quaqmire.' Said Kerry: 'No, I don't believe it is that today. But it could become that if we don't make the right choices.'" So there Kerry is, calling for more troops and dissociating himself from Ted Kennedy who has been the only Democratic Senator calling for disengagement now and properly labeling the whole sordid adventure as a "quaqmire" (1).

Nor has Hillary Clinton been a silent member of this pro-war chorus, saying: ''We have many disagreements about how to engage in [Iraq] and how to win it, but I never want to live through that (the struggle to end the war in Vietnam) again"(4). Here Hillary defines the limits of the debate, i.e. "how to engage," not whether to engage, and "how to win," not how to withdraw. But Clinton stoops even further and repudiates the entire Vietnam era of struggle, which produced not only a strong anti-war consciousness, the so-called "Vietnam syndrome," but also great advances for civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, voting rights and strides against racism. So too, out of the struggle forced upon us now to end the war in Iraq, great good may come. But Hillary Clinton would prefer that the blood continue to flow in Iraq rather than a political struggle over the war take place in the U.S.

Hopefully, the excerpts of both critiques give you an impression of the points being made but, if you have time, please visit one or both.  (Or designate someone to do so.)

Kayla wants to know if we can highlight something Jude (Iddybud) has written (of course) but if we can highlight it via where Jude also does a weblog.  No problem.  Here's an excerpt of Jude's "London 7/7:  British Bloggers Speak:"

My thoughts are with the people of London, especially those who have lost loved ones. Those who who choose the murder of innocent people to prove a political point are never right. Everyone with the fire of love for their fellow man in their hearts is a Brit today. There were days I recall...days when these people would have been put on trial and imprisoned for life. Today, we can rely upon our leaders to use the emotion stemming from such events in order to affect blood revenge and war in lands where other innocent people dwell. It makes less and less sense as the days pass and more innocent people die.

I pray for the madness to end and for my civilization to return, mightily, to the rule of law. We should have never entered the jungle with these savages. Law has been our strength and our shield; our international healing force and common thread.

Terrorism is
not new to London...and not solely caused, in history, by Islamic extremists.

A statement has been made on the London bombings by
George Galloway on behalf of "Respect" - (UK's Unity Coalition).

Alex Harrowell from the
Yorkshire Ranter has updates on life in London today. He mentions something rather disturbing to me, which is that he was told this morning, by the British Transport Police, that the explosions had been due to a "power surge" and that the subway was closed. Had he known there had been terrorist attcks, he never would have gotten on the alternative to the "tube" - which was the bus.

Francisco e-mails to note Armando at Daily Kos and his post "Judith Miller is Right Not To Reveal Her Source."  Armando is addressing the issue (again, and I believe we linked to something by him on this earlier, but I could be wrong -- as always) of the Miller legal stance and he's also noting the New York Times editorial from yesterday:

Judith Miller has been sent to jail for refusing to comply with a court order that she testify before the Plame grand jury. While I have discussed the legal aspects in depth here, I think another aspect is important - Judith Miller is doing the right thing in not revealing her source. Miller has been a terrible journalist for the past four years. Her work on Iraq and WMD was negligent bordering on criminal. [NOTE: My use of "criminal" is hyperbole. Obviously she broke no laws with her coverage, just her reputation as a journalist.] But she is right and courageous in not revealing her sources here.

(And yes, Zach, after you recommended the editorial, I did read it yesterday evening. I did enjoy it, but I really do try not to critique or comment on the editorials in the Times.)

BuzzFlash has picked the Bully Boy as The GOP Hypocrite of the Week.  Read why (the BuzzFlash headline reads "In Bush's Failed War on Terrorism, He Uses Focus Groups, Polls and Continued Failure to Justify More Failure.  His only Successful War is the One He is Waging with Reality.  Once Again, Our BuzzFlash GOP Hypocrite of the Week."


What do you do when you want to screw only the working people of your nation with the largest tax increase in history and hand those trillions of dollars to your wealthy campaign contributors, yet not have anybody realize you've done it? If you're Ronald Reagan, you call in Alan Greenspan.

Through the "golden years of the American middle class" - the 1940s through 1982 - the top income tax rate for the hyper-rich had been between 90 and 70 percent. Ronald Reagan wanted to cut that rate dramatically, to help out his political patrons. He did this with a massive tax cut in the summer of 1981.

The only problem was that when Reagan took his meat axe to our tax code, he produced mind-boggling budget deficits. Voodoo economics didn't work out as planned, and even after borrowing so much money that this year we'll pay over $100 billion just in interest on the money Reagan borrowed to make the economy look good in the 1980s, Reagan couldn't come up with the revenues he needed to run the government.

Woah!  What's the above from?  Thom Hartmann's latest book review ("Thom Hartmann's 'Independent Thinker' Book of the Month Review").  He's reviewing Ravi Batra's Greenspan's Fraud: How Two Decades of His Policies Have Undermined the Global Economy.

We'll also note that BuzzFlash gives their Wings of Justice award to Bill Moyers.

By the way, BuzzFlash didn't trumpet their own horn in May but if you do the math (even I can do math this simple -- I hope), May marked BuzzFlash's FIFTH ANNIVERSARY.  We congratulated The Black Commentator on their recent anniversary and we'll offer belated congratulations to BuzzFlash.  We can't give Buzz what they'd like most today (bringing the troops home and impeachment) but if you have the money to spare, please check out their premiums and if you find a book, DVD or CD you're interested in, consider ordering it.

This is a longer entry than normal.  That's because this evening's post will be delayed (like last night's) due to some volunteer work I need to do re: O'Connor's replacement.  The Sunday Chat & Chews will go up, Maria's working on the Democracy Now! post and we'll give a heads up to Air America's weekend schedule.  Ava and I will probably do a joint entry to answer a question asked by Bob and Wally (in different e-mails).  (We also need to reply to an e-mail sent to both of us and I'll put this in here to remind myself.)  And Billie's working on something regarding an article in this morning's New York Times.  (And yes, she was wondering where Steve Chapman's mustache went -- referring to yesterday's Democracy Now! post.)  Point, there will be posts tonight but they will probably be later (as last night's were).

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