Monday, November 14, 2005

Democracy Now: Aman Mehrzai, Robert Scheer, Jimmy Massey and Corp. Media Flunky; Ron (Why Are We Back In Iraq), Christine (Pop Politics) ...

Report: CIA Interrogators Covered Up Death of Detainee
Time Magazine is reporting CIA interrogators apparently tried to cover up the death of an Iraqi "ghost detainee" who died while being interrogated at Abu Ghraib prison. Autopsy reports show the detainee Manadel al-Jamadi died of blunt force injuries and asphyxiation. He is believes to have suffocated after an empty sandbag was placed over his head while his arms were secured up and behind his back, in a crucifixion-like pose. To cover up the killing, blood was mopped up with a chlorine solution before the interrogation scene could be examined by an investigator. A bloodstained hood that had covered his head also disappeared. Although the CIA has ruled the killing a homicide, the CIA interrogator involved in his death remains free and continues to work for the agency. Jamadi was being held in a secret part of the Abu Ghraib prison that was off limits to international observers including the Red Cross. Concern has been growing in recent weeks over what takes place in these secret CIA prisons. The Washington Post recently revealed the CIA is operating a network of secret prisons around the world including two in Eastern Europe.

Democrats Move to Restore Habeas Corpus To Detainees
On Capitol Hill, the Senate is coming under increased criticism for hastily voting last week to overturn a Supreme Court ruling on the rights of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. By a 49 to 42 vote, the Senate agreed to strip detainees of their right to challenge their detention in federal courts, eliminating their writ of habeas corpus. The measure only passed because it received support from five Democrats: Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Ron Wyden of Oregon. Now Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico is planning to put forward an amendment as earlier as today to reverse the Senate's vote. Meanwhile former military officials are also criticizing the decision to strip detainees of their right to habeas corpus. John Hutson, a retired rear admiral, is collecting signatures from about 60 former officers who oppose the proposal. The National Institute of Military Justice has also announced its opposition to the measures. Attorneys and legal historians have noted that the right to habeas corpus dates back 800 years. Attorneys Jeremy Hirsh and Timothy Fisher write "Since the time of the Magna Carta, the rule of law has meant that a person may not be imprisoned without a lawful reason, and now is no time for us to deviate from that rule of law."

Canadian Court to Review Jeremy Hinzman
In Canada, the country's federal court announced Friday it would review the case of American war resister Jeremy Hinzman. Hinzman is a U.S. soldier who fled to Canada to seek asylum instead of going to fight in Iraq. Earlier this year his asylum request was denied.

White House Tries To Alter Transcript of Press Briefings
The White House has been accused of trying to rewrite history after requesting Congressional Quarterly and the Federal News Service to alter the transcript to a October 31 press briefing. Both news agencies reported White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan responded to a question about the CIA leak case by saying "that's accurate." But the White House insists he said, "I don't think that's accurate." So far both Congressional Quarterly and the Federal News Services have refused to change their transcripts but the White House website now claims McClellan said "I don't think that's accurate."

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Marcus, Kendrick, Tori and Bonnie. On the last item, Bonnie's pick re: Scotty McClellan, please note that if you listen or watch in English you'll hear the part of the press conference where Scotty speaks and he does say, "That's accurate." Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for November 14, 2005

- Democrats Move to Restore Habeas Corpus To Detainees
- Iraqi Woman Confesses on Jordanian TV to Bombing
- Bush: "Irresponsible" to Rewrite History About Iraq War
- Bush's Approval Rating Sinks to 36 Percent
- White House Tries To Alter Transcript of Press Briefings
- Report: CIA Interrogators Covered Up Death of Detainee
- Italy Seeks Extradition of 22 CIA Operatives
- Middle East Envoy Warns Gaza Turning Into "Giant Prison"
- Thousands of Students Say No To Recruiters in Boston

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

Students Arrested at Powell Speech Protest Accuse Police of Racial Profiling

Police arrested eight people Friday night at the San Francisco Bay Area's De Anza College while protesting against a visit by Colin Powell. Six of the eight arrested were Muslims. Students are accusing police of using racial profiling and excessive force while arresting activists during the demonstrations.

LA Times Fires Longtime Progressive Columnist Robert Scheer

The Los Angeles Times newspaper last week announced that it was firing longtime columnist Robert Scheer. Scheer has been at the Times for 30 years and was one of the most progressive voices at the paper. In recent years, his columns took on the Bush Administration and its justifications for the invasion of Iraq.

Did Former Marine Jimmy Massey Lie About U.S. Military Atrocities in Iraq? A Debate Between Massey and Embedded Reporter Ron Harris

Did former U.S, marine Jimmy Massey lie or exaggerate about killing civilians in Iraq to the media? Ron Harris, a reporter embedded with Massey's battalion says Massey's claims are not credible. We host a debate with Massey and Harris.

Ron Harris is a tool. And that's the mildest term I could use at this site. I've been on the phone with Dona and we're both very vocal on this debate. Harris monopolizes the interview,
refuses to answer questions and constantly refers to Massey as "Jimmy." There's a crack made about "or 6 year-old boys" made by Harris that's a smear.

There are so many problems with Harris. Besides "Let me finish" (Harris who can't shut the ___ up. He can't shut up. And no one gives a damn about hearing his spin of why he's attacking Massey. No one needed to hear it once, let alone over and over.)

He's an embed in bed with the military. He says "we" at one point referring to the military (as we noted here last week he does that in print as well). Brown's got the war lust and now he's out to attack Massey. Or, as he says, "Jimmy."

How important is Harris that he's allowed to call him "Jimmy"? It's condescending. It's like when the Bully Boy called Cindy Sheehan "Mom." It's out of line. Groan as you listen to him holler "Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy" when Goodman's even asked Massey to speak.

Dona said listening to him ask in his "cracking voice that verged on the falsetto, 'Can I finish?' over and over" was enough to make her throw something at the TV. I was luckier. I only had to listen to Harris, I didn't have to also see him. Or I guess we should call him "Ronnie." Ronnie is what we will call the embed who got in bed with the military and gladly slept in the wet spot.

Ronnie tries to confuse Massey, tossing out terms like "deep cover" that are journalistic. It starts out civil, the discussion until Ronnie goes on the attack early on. Harris monopolizes the discussion as though he can win by sheer wordage.

The points are:

1) Things not observed have been repeated.

Massey acknowledges that (and has before) on his part. Ronnie can't do the same and blows off all attempts to pin him down on that point (I believe Ronnie channels Cher from Clueless for this topic: "Whatever").

2) Massey's book has only been published in France, in French.

Ronnie went on CNN last week to attack the book. Ronnie doesn't read French. Which goes to point one. (Ronnie claims to have spoken to the book's co-author. Since her husband has already written a letter to the Sacremento Bee chastizing the paper for their eagerness to distance themselves from Massey, it's doubtful that her comments to Ronnie, "whatever" they are, back up Ronnie's views and spin.)

3) Public record.

Ronnie dismisses criticism of his own reporting (he was a war cheerleader quick to note "chemical weapons" found in Iraq -- they weren't). That reporting bears Ronnie's name so one would assume Ronnie is responsible for it. (But Ronnie seems the type who rarely takes accountability.) By contrast, Ronnie refers to a paper's report of a statement by Massey. It's the only thing he can find to back him up and he never gives the name of reporter or the title of the piece. So no one can verify Ronnie's claims this morning. If such a report does exist, the fact remains that Massey didn't write it and if all other reports don't include Massey making such a claim in his many speaking engagements it is highly possible the press reporter got the quote wrong. (Shocking! Isn't it.)

On verify, Ronnie seems to think he knows what Massey knows and doesn't know. Seer Ronnie states that Massey can't prove his comments and that Massey knows that. Massey responds he has recordings for his book. Ronnie just sighs a lot and says "Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy" (honestly, it's like he's trying to promote Madonna's True Blue album).

Ronnie shifts the topic anytime it's uncomfortable for him and is prone to issuing self-serving statements (he really is shouting out to Madonna, this is just like Madonna's performance in Evita).

Jim's on the phone now (yelling, Dona's passed it over to him). Which is good both because he has a point he wants made and because hearing someone even more angry than Dona or I actually has a calming effect.

Jim: "Sgt. Massey. That's what Ron Embed On His Knees should call Jimmmy Massey. It's what he would call anyone else who served. As a member of the press who has decided to attack someone, he has no right to be so familiar with Massey."

I'll pull an Amy Goodman and say, "And that will be our final word." Seriously, that was the point Jim wanted to make.

Lynda e-mails to ask why I haven't noted Robert Scheer's firing by the LA Times? Because the community hasn't noted it. I know Scheer and don't want to be accused of using this space to promote writers I know. So, since no one brought it up, I haven't brought it up here.

Since Lynda's now brought it up, what Scheer says on today's Democracy Now! is what's being said (loudly). It's also being said that the paper's leadership is willing to crawl (through glass?) on it's knees to prove their bonafides (right wing bonafides) to a group still smarting over the pre-election Gropinator coverage.

In terms of Scheer's remarks on Democracy Now!, I'll add one point. The LA Times isn't a national paper (as they damn well know -- they attempted to kill distribution to D.C. but that didn't go over well). So I'm confused as to why California based Scheer will be replaced with, among others, DC based Jonah Goldberg (or will he be sleeping on Judith Regan's couch?).
Was not one of the problems (one of the many problems) with Michael Kinsley's reign the fact that Kinsley wasn't based in California? Now Goldberg, who already has a syndicated column, will be getting space in the LA Times. Why? He's on CNN already. How much of Goldberg do Californians need?

Myself? I don't think they need any. I rank this as the worst thing the LA Times has done since an editor passed on a smear about Jean Seberg and vouched for the source to get it into print. Then he attempted to claim a faulty memory when, years later, it was discovered that Seberg had been targeted by the FBI and that the smear that popped up in the LA Times was in fact one devised by FBI agents. (Sure was lucky for the editor involved that he had a Reagan-like memory, no?)

If anyone wants to express themselves, the phone number for the LA Times is (213) 237-5000. Letters to the editor can be sent via

Moving on. (Or, as my friend says, walk on,

"What did Laura Flanders mention Sunday night?" a number of e-mails ask. I believe she also mentioned upcoming appearances Saturday night, but she did mention them on Sunday. One is Wednesday, Nov. 16 (this Weds.) at 7:00 PM, UCLA, Hammer Museum. "What's Wrong with Television News" is the title of the forum. Along with Flanders, others participating include Gore Vidal, Tom Fenton, Bryn Freedman, Paul Jay, Mark Lloyd, Kim Spencer, Suneeta Vyas. Link TV, Free Press and Independent World Television are co-presenting the forum. (Sorry, the address of the location is 10899 Wilshire Blvd., LA.)

Independent World Television has interviews with Naomi Klein, Gore Vidal and Mark Lloyd that you can watch online.

Flanders has at least one other public appearance this week. I have no idea on it. If someone does e-mail and we'll note it.

Gary was the first to e-mail on this but Billie did as well, Ron's "What is Poland and Romania" (Why Are We Back In Iraq?):

The question being:

What are the names of the two Eastern European countries that Washington Post Media Notes columnist, Howard Kurtz, mysteriously leaves out of his column that is partly devoted to the controversy surrounding why "some liberals are angry that The Post agreed to a request by senior U.S. officials not to name the countries involved" in the secret prison story.

The bonus question might be:

How did the Washington Post find itself in Jeopardy?


Very strange.

Because even though Dana Priest didn't name Poland or Romania in the November 2nd article, Associated Press articles accessible at the Washington Post Website (one link, two links, three links) do sport the names.

Kurtz spoke to Priest:

"We are being accused of being in the pocket of the administration," Priest says. "One student called me up from a Virginia university to tell me they were burning the paper at a protest, because we're complicit in torture."

Kurtz spoke to some critics from the left:

Peter Kornbluh, senior analyst at the nonprofit National Security Archive, calls Priest a "brilliant reporter" and says she and The Post deserve credit for "groundbreaking work," and "her sources deserve credit for being courageous, too." But he sharply criticizes the paper's decision not to name the Eastern European countries, two of which were later identified by the Financial Times and other news outlets, citing information from the group Human Rights Watch.

"We are talking about the secret detention and abuse of prisoners," Kornbluh says. "There is an aspect of enabling this to go forward by yielding to the arguments these senior officials made. This is the most significant decision to withhold information since the Bay of Pigs, when President Kennedy twisted the arm of the publisher of the New York Times to take out key details" about the 1961 invasion of Cuba.

Writes Gal Beckerman of Columbia Journalism Review: "The Post is trying to have it both ways: getting credit for breaking the story, without breaking the specific details that might have caused it grief from the CIA."

Howard Kurtz is right about something. There is a Plame parallel.

Ron's running down a number of issues. I'll point out one more. Ron notes that the Post's article (by Priest) didn't name the countries involved but AP articles carried in the paper did. It's worth remembering that the Washington Post ran Robert Novak's column outing Valerie Plame. The Post hemmed and hawwed on that, after the fact. But the consensus was that they probably shouldn't have run Novak's column.

By the way, Jobie e-mailed to note a transcript from Howie Kurtz's Reliable Sources. I'm not highlighting it. There are so many "facts" that are wrong. Mary Mapes' book (known as "the book" by CBS) comes out tomorrow. We'll note that. We don't have time to waste with people (including journalists) who don't have the basic facts after all this time. (The documents have never been proven to be false. A loud blogger does not an informed guest make.)

Sally e-mails to note Diana Johnstone's "The Origins of the Guardian's Attack on Chomsky" (CounterPunch):

Last Halloween, The Guardian ran an attack on Noam Chomsky that amazed many readers who had considered The Guardian to be one of Britain's more serious newspapers. The attack took the form of what Alexander Cockburn described in his article on this CounterPunch website as a "showcase interview"--"a showcase for the interviewer's inquisitorial chutzpa". In this art form, the interviewee is simply the prey for the interviewer who plies him with trap questions and then rewrites the whole thing to make him look like an idiot compared to her clever self.

The interviewer was a young Oxford graduate named Emma Brockes who is making a name for herself in the genre. Ms Brockes obviously had scant familiarity with Chomsky's work. For all one can tell, her sole background preparation for this assignment was an article written by her colleague Ed Vulliamy and published by the Balkan Crisis Report of International War and Peace Reporting (IWPR, an outfit heavily subsidized by NATO governments) on August 27, 2004. Vulliamy's article, "We Must Fight for Memory of Bosnia's Camps", calling for monuments to perpetuate the memory of the 1992 Bosnian Serb detention camps which he visited as a reporter (but not, of course, the Muslim and Croat camps which he did not visit), includes an attack on me which is echoed very precisely by Ms Brockes, even to misspelling my name in the same way.

The entire background for her attack on Chomsky seems to be drawn from two paragraphs of Vulliamy's article:

Revisionism over the carnage in Bosnia is rampant and persistent. It has been ever since Thomas Deichmann and his group in London, under the auspices of a circle called "Living Marxism", claimed the camps found by ITN and myself were fabrications. They adopted the Serbian term "collection centres", claiming their inmates were there of their own volition. Deichmann's charges were ruled by a jury as being in breach of civil law in the London High Court when they were legally challenged by ITN. Successive verdicts in The Hague have rendered them ridiculous as well as poisonous. One could be forgiven for thinking that once the Bosnian Serb co-president Biljana Plavsic had pleaded guilty to the entire hurricane of violence unleashed on her authority, the revisionists would go to ground.

After all, who would know best: they or the woman (and her peers and subordinates) on whose orders the pogrom was carried out? But no. In Sweden, here they come again, through the pages of a magazine called Ordfront, or Word Front. Last year, it carried an interview with the author Diane Johnstone, about her book Fool's Crusade, which expresses doubts over the number of victims of the Srebrenica massacre; the authencity of the Racak massacre in Kosovo; the use of systematic rape in the war in Bosnia; and the true figure of Bosnian war dead (the official estimate is more than 200,000 - Johnstone claims 50,000). And just as before, members of the chattering classes, unbelievably, have hailed this poison as "outstanding work", in a letter signed by, among others, Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Tariq Ali, John Pilger, <>.

In her write-up of the interview, Ms Brockes interprets Chomsky's defense of publication of my book as a "defense of those who say the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated" and drags in the ITN-Living Marxism (LM) controversy, confusing the facts just as in Vulliamy's article. She lauds "my colleague, Ed Vulliamy", as one of the "serious, trustworthy people" who disagree with Chomsky. So it is not far-fetched to see Vulliamy's influence in the Brockes hatchet job.

Martha e-mails to note Carol' "Just Say No" (A New Leif, Ms):

Prop 73 was a constitutional amendment requiring parental notification for any minor seeking an abortion. The proposition had the innocuous name "Child Protection Initiative". It was, however, dangerous. After all, how much safer and healthier would minors be who still sought to end their pregnancy without parental notification? That is a situation that never ends well. It didn't before Roe v. Wade, and it hasn't in states that have passed parental notification laws. There was more to this proposition than just parental notification. The language of the proposition defined abortion as, "caus[ing] the death of the unborn child, a child conceived but not yet born." Dangerous and deceptive.

For some reason, though, parental notification is one of the easiest places to peck away at abortion rights. I think it is because parents want to believe that their child would tell them anything, so notification is just a reassuring technicallity. After all, as the proponents always say, a minor needs parental consent to get their ears pierced. Good argument. On the surface. Un-pierced ears are not unwanted pregnancies. There is no shame attached to pierced ears. If you don't get your parents consent to get your ears pierced and you find someone who will illegally pierce your ears, you probably won't get anything worse than uneven holes or an infection. To talk people out of being in favor of parental notification laws is doable, but it is a complex, nuanced, and subtle endeavor. Complex, nuanced and subtle - not really words associated with political campaigns. It is an uphill battle to defeat these propositions.

We are in a on-going war to protect the rights of all women to have access to safe and legal abortions. But, for today, winning one battle feels pretty damn good.

And Jamie e-mails to note Christine's "Add to Maureen Dowd's Reading List" (Pop Politics):

My biggest problem with the infamous excerpt of Maureen Dowd's new book is articles like this must-read critique criticizing the faulty studies Dowd relies upon to make her case that feminism has been, well, a drag, won't cause as big a wave as the original essay.

Dowd's reliance on bad research and anecdotal advice from a select group of women puts on her par with the president she skewers each week. Both she and Bush need to get out more and make new friends.

Failing that, they could try picking up a magazine or book once in a while on the subjects in which they supposedly specialize. Katha Pollitt in The Nation has a few suggestions, and she expresses the disappointment of many women who look to Dowd to provide a strong female, sometimes feminist, voice in the mainstream press:

Maureen Dowd doesn't read my column. I know this because in her new book, Are Men Necessary?, she uncritically cites virtually every fear-mongering, backlash-promoting study, survey, article and book I've debunked in this space. She falls for that 1986 Harvard-Yale study comparing women's chances of marrying after 40 to the likelihood of being killed by a terrorist, and for the half-baked theories of Sylvia Ann Hewlett (ambitious women stay single or childless), Lisa Belkin (mothers give up their careers), Louise Story (even undergraduates understand this now) and other purveyors of the view that achievement and romance/family are incompatible for women. To be fair, Dowd apparently doesn't read Susan Faludi or Susan Douglas either, or The American Prospect, Slate, Salon or even The New Republic, home of her friend Leon Wieseltier, much thanked for editorial help in her introduction -- all of which have published persuasive critiques of these and other contributions to backlash lit. Still, it hurts. I read her, after all. We all do.

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