Monday, January 09, 2006

Democracy Now: Kate Michelman, Rev. Timothy McDonald, Jesse Jackson, Eleanor Smeal, Danny Schechter ...

SPIEGEL: The US government feels it is legitimate to hold prisoners under water until they believe they are drowning. Is this acceptable to you?
Merkel: There was a similar debate in Germany over the 2002
kidnapping of Jakob von Metzler, the banker's son. The issue then was whether it is legitimate to threaten or use torture to save the life of a child. The public debate showed that the overwhelming majority of citizens believed that even in such a case, the end does not justify the means. That is also my position.
SPIEGEL: Do you agree with Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble's view that in the fight against terrorism, it is necessary to use information that may have been obtained through torture?
Merkel: Not in a criminal proceeding. Information obtained under dubious circumstances cannot play a role in legal proceedings in a constitutional state. But everything that's available must be taken into account in threat prevention. What do you do when other countries' intelligence agencies give you information and you aren't entirely certain about its source? Simply ignore it? That's impossible. We have a duty to guarantee the safety of our citizens.
SPIEGEL: In the interest of threat prevention, can German officials be sent to the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay to interrogate detainees?
Merkel: An institution like Guantanamo in its present form cannot and must not exist in the long term. We must find different ways of dealing with prisoners. As far as I'm concerned there's no question about that.
SPIEGEL: Will you address Guantanamo with President Bush?
Merkel: We will certainly talk about the whole issue of combating terrorism. But it's also important to me, and I'll make this clear during my visit, that our relationship with the United States is not reduced to questions of fighting terrorism and the Iraq war. German-American relations were so good for so many years because they extended deeply into the normal lives of people.
The above is from Germany's Der Spiegel's "Merkel: Guantanamo Mustn't Exist in Long Term."  DK gave us the heads up to this and a number of members have noted it in e-mails this morning so we'll lead with it.  More on e-mails later in this entry. 
Turning to more news you can use:
Report: US Questioned Detainees at Romanian Military Base
In other news, the Swiss newspaper SonntagsBlick is reporting the US questioned over 20 Iraqi and Afghan detainees at a military base in Romania. The paper says the information was gleaned from Egyptian foreign ministry documents obtained by Swiss intelligence agents. Romania has been named as one of the possible sites of a US-run secret prison in Eastern Europe. According to Swiss officials, Egypt also believed there are similar bases in Ukraine, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bulgaria. On a visit to Romania last month, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice signed an agreement to establish permanent military bases in the country, the first ever in a former Warsaw Pact nation.
Witnesses: US Bombing of Ramadi Neighborhood Kills 6 Teens
Meanwhile, witnesses in the western city of Ramadi say a US air strike killed six teenagers Saturday. The teenagers were reportedly gathered near their homes when their neighborhood was shelled by US military planes.
Unidentified Ramadi resident: "They were children, only 16 and 17 years old. They were playing here and cleaning the sewage near their houses. The planes hit them with rockets, we did find their bodies but flesh and blood."
Head of UN Force in Haiti Dies of Apparent Suicide Amid Crackdown Pressure
In Haiti, the head of the United Nations peacekeeping force has died of an apparent suicide. Lt. Gen. Urano Teixeira da Matta Bacellar was found Saturday on the balcony of his hotel room with a gunshot wound to the head. Lt. Bacellar's death comes amid growing pressure from Haiti’s business sector and the international community to take on armed groups in Haiti's poorest slums. On Friday -- one day before Lt. Bacellar's death -- U.N. mission head Juan Gabriel Valdes announced the UN would invade the poor slum of Cite Soleil, a stronghold for supporters of Lavalas, the party of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Several UN officials told Reuters Lt. Bacellar had opposed the plan.
Meanwhile, the news service Haiti Information Project is reporting Lt. Bacellar held a tense meeting with Haiti's business leaders the night before his death. The president of Haiti's Chamber of Commerce, Reginald Boulos, had already announced a nationwide general strike set for today aimed at pressuring the UN to crack down on neighborhoods like Cité Soleil.
In place of Lt. Bacellar, Chilean Gen. Eduardo Aldunate Herman has been named interim head of the UN force. The organization School of the Americas Watch reports Gen. Herman was one of 11 former high-ranking Chilean military officials under former dictator Augusto Pinochet who trained at the US-run School of Americas.
My Lai Rescuer Hugh Thompson Dies at 62
And Hugh Thompson, the former Army helicopter pilot who helped rescue Vietnamese civilians from fellow US troops during the My Lai massacre, has died cancer. He was 62 years old. On March 16, 1968, Thompson and two others landed their helicopter in front of US troops firing on Vietnamese civilians in the village of My Lai. They pointed their guns at their fellow service members to prevent more killings, and helped evacuate the villagers. After many years of being ignored and even vilified, Thompson and his crew members were honored in 1998 with the Soldier's Medal, the highest military award for bravery not involving conflict with an enemy.
Those four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by
Molly, Gene, KeShawn and JonahDemocracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):
Headlines for January 9, 2006

- Senate Hearings Open for Samuel Alito
- 17 Americans Dead in Iraq Violence, Helicopter Crash
- Witnesses: US Bombing of Ramadi Neighborhood Kills 6 Teens
- Delay Abandons Bid To Reclaim House Majority Spot
- Funeral Services Begin For West Virginia Coal Miners
- Head of UN Force in Haiti Dies of Apparent Suicide
- Greenpeace Confronts Japanese Whaling in Southern Ocean
- My Lai Rescuer Hugh Thompson Dead at 62
Fmr. NARAL Head Kate Michelman Recounts Her Own Pre-Roe v Wade Experience Getting an Abortion and Consent From the Husband Who Abandoned Her

Senate hearings begin today for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. In 1991, Alito was the lone dissenting federal judge in a case that struck down a Pennsylvania law that required women seeking abortions to notify their spouses. We speak with Kate Michelman, former head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, about her own experience in getting an abortion 1969 -- before Roe v. Wade -- when she had to seek permission from her husband who had abandoned her.
Abortion, Presidential Power and Civil rights: A Debate on the Nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court

Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito begin today in Washington DC. A conservative appeals court judge, Alito is expected to be grilled about his views on abortion, presidential power and civil rights. We host a debate on his nomination.
Conservative Christian Organizations Stage Pro-Alito Rally at Justice Sunday III

On Sunday, conservative organizations staged a rally in Philadelphia called 'Justice Sunday III' in support of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. We speak with the Rev. Timothy McDonald, an African-American pastor who opposed the event because of what he calls Alito's poor record on civil-rights.
Jesse Jackson on Samuel Alito, Domestic Spying and Poverty in America

Sunday marked the start of the Rainbow/Push coalition's economic summit in New York City. We speak with the group's founder, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, about Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, the government response to Hurricane Katrina, Ariel Sharon and more. [includes rush transcript]
Our highlight today focus primarily on Alito.  (I'll save my own comments for the roundtables Gina and Krista will be holding for the gina & krista round-robin.  Remember they will be doing special editions for each day of the hearings and a wrap up after the final day of the hearings.)
First up, Maria notes Eleanor Smeal's "Students from 35 States Come to Washington, DC to Stop Alito" (The Smeal Report, Ms. Magazine):
In the spirit of Freedom Summer 1964, when thousands of students from across the country traveled to Mississippi and other Southern states to register and mobilize African-American voters in unprecedented numbers, Freedom Winter '06 is mobilizing students to save women's rights and civil rights.
Make no mistake about it: Alito is no Sandra Day O'Connor. As the pioneering woman on the Supreme Court, Justice O'Conner voted for many of the most significant legal protections for women. She has been the fifth vote to preserve affirmative action and the right to abortion. The appointment of a reactionary judge like Samuel Alito to O'Connor's seat will shift the balance of the Court to the detriment of women's rights and civil rights. It could reverse decades of progress for women.
Alito's record as a judge makes clear that if confirmed he will vote to erode important federal laws that protect women at work and women and girls at school, and that he would make it nearly impossible to obtain jury trials in sex discrimination and race discrimination cases under Title VII. Alito has ruled that the Family and Medical Leave Act should not apply to state and local employees. He would narrow greatly Congressional power under the Commerce Clause to protect women and people of color against discrimination, as well as workers and consumers. He did not think Congress even had the power under the Commerce Clause to restrict the transfer or possession of machine guns.
Staying with this topic, Martha notes Danny Schechter's "Supreme Court Hearings Begin Today" (News Dissector,
Score the timing of the hearings as a big plus for the Busheviks.
The New York Times notes that the hearings “could provide a welcome distraction from the troubles of the Republican Party which has been buffeted by criticism over the economy, over the was in Iraq, the domestic spying program, the Jack Ambramoff scandal, and on Saturday the decision by Representative Tom Delay to step down permanently as House Majority Leader.”
So there you have it: the hearing is a distraction to, in effect, change the subject and hope the media will move on from other issues to the ideological battle that is being organized to inflame passions on both sides of the partisan divide.
The big concerns remain abortion, spying, and just how deferential the Court should be to Presidential power. The real issue is political--can the Administration sell its candidate as the responsible jurist America needs while deflecting other issues which will be dismissed as attacks on the President. Can it make over the Judge and take over the Court?
Public opinion has been well prepared. Everyone who ever went to school or played baseball with “Sam” has been interviewed. He's being humanized while the issues are being marginalized. The polls say he is a winner.
Can/will the Democrats get it up for a real fight or will their sense of courtesy and deference once against snatch defeat out of a possible victory?
Stay tuned. Fillibuster anyone?
Those of us who still dream of an even playing field in this nation - in the workplace, at school, in the courts - will be watching as the Senate Judiciary Committee questions this nominee. The public needs to hear where Alito stands on sexual harassment and sex discrimination, affirmative action, abortion and birth control, equal educational opportunities, and all the issues that can make a lasting difference in the lives of women and girls. If the U.S. Senate ushers Samuel Alito onto a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court, it could take a generation to undo the damage to our rights.
This month, hundreds of students and community activists from across the country are traveling to Washington, D.C. at their own expense, giving up vacation time and semester breaks to volunteer their time and to tell their senators just how disastrous an Alito confirmation will be for their lives and their future. I hope every senator, regardless of party, will listen to their constituents, whose rights hang in the balance. They will remember in November.
Wrapping up the highlights regarding Alito, Erika notes Martha Burk's "Alito: A Defeat for Working Women" (Ms. Magazine)
Alito's confirmation, if it happens, could also have profound implications for working women, only from the opposite point of view. Like the other seven men on the Court, he's never experienced sex discrimination first hand, so he doesn't see it as a problem. His record is clear -- big business rules. During his 15 years on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, he compiled a stunning record of backing corporations over workers in sex and race discrimination cases. He has bragged that he is "particularly proud" of his work in opposing affirmative action, and never expressed regret for joining a militantly anti-woman club dedicated to keeping women out of Princeton.
This mindset does not bode well for female employment rights. One case that could come before the Court in the near future just happens to be the largest sex discrimination suit in history, Dukes v. Wal-Mart. Current and former female employees of the nation's largest employer are seeking class-action status to pursue pay and promotion discrimination claims. They've won in lower courts, and Wal-Mart is of course appealing. If the case reaches the Supremes a vote against the women could effectively torpedo female workplace rights for a generation.
Moving to the topic of impeachment, Brandon David Lindorff's "What We Don't Know Could Hurt Us" (This Can't Be Happening!):
Rome--There are now eight members of Congress who have put their names to a bill calling for a special committee of the House to investigate impeachable crimes by the Bush administration. To date, all of them are Democrats.
So far, you'd be hard-pressed to know about any of this--including the very fact that Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the low-key and soft-spoken but dedicated ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, had even submitted such a bill--as well as two companion bills calling for censure of both Bush and Cheney for abuse of power.
Apparently in the editorial cloister of our once proud Fourth Estate, where decisions as to what it is safe or appropriate for us in the public to know, it has been determined that we do not need to know that the notion of impeachment of the president is starting to grow.
Most of the major corporate media have yet to let the public know that several respected polls have shown a majority of Americans to favor impeachment if Bush lied about the reasons for going to war against Iraq, which if combined with polls showing that two-thirds of Americans or more think he did lie about those reasons, tells you all you need to know about the public attitude on impeachment.
The same paternalistic and pro-administration mindset was at work when the editor and publisher of the New York Times decided a year ago to squelch for a year a story they had about the NSA warrantless spying program. They felt that we the people didn't need to know about that story in a presidential election year, even if the target of that spying may well have been the administration’s electoral opponents, just as it was in the 1972 Watergate spying scandal.
Ruth noted in a phone call that Law & Disorder did air today, directly before Pacifica began their live coverage of the Alito hearings. If you missed it on WBAI today, you can hear the program online at Law & Disorder  and the show also broadcasts at other times on other radio stations (you can find that information at their website).
Ruth passed on that Session II of the International Commission of Inquiry On Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration will take place next week.
Friday and Saturday, events will take place at The Riverside Church (NYC on all events, sorry).  Friday, at NYC's Riverside Church, events will begin at 5:00 pm; Saturday, also at Riverside Church, events will begin at 10:00 am.  On Sunday, the location changes to the law school at Columbia University and begins at 1:00 pm.  Information on these events as well text, audio and video highlights from the first session (held last October) can be found online at Bush Commission.
Those interested in the McCain amendment and the Graham amendment should make a point to listen to this week's broadcast of Law & Disorder
This is a dictated entry and that will probably be the case for the Democracy Now! entries all week.  Some will go up earlier, some later.   The plan is to have something up at this site tonight.  We'll see how that goes. 
With regards to Alito, let's note this from an interview Grover Norquist gave to El Mundo (September, 2004):
Question: And if Bush wins?
Norquist: The Democratic Party will be forever doomed.  If we take control of the legislature and the executive branch, we will reinforce our control of the judicial branch to direct it against the Democrats.  We will bring about a modest limit of the ability of the people to initiate lawsuits against corporations, which will damage the lawyers who specialize in these cases, which is one of the props of the Democratic Party.  We will accelerate the decline of the unions.  We will cut funding to groups of public employees, like teachers, who are one of the great sources of Democratic votes.  And we will begin to move the welfare state toward a private system, in pensions and health care.
That excerpt is from Troy Duster's foreword (p. is) of Si Kahn and Elizabeth Minnich's The Fox In The Henhouse: How Privatization Threatens Democracy. (And worth thinking about with the hearings going on.)  The book may be discussed at The Third Estate Sunday Review.  As noted in Sunday's discussion, Robert Parry's Trick or Treason will be discussed (unless something -- such as time running out -- prevents the book discussion). 
I was hoping to spread the e-mails out over various accounts so as not to burden anyone but Dona has suggested using the e-mail address for The Third Estate Sunday Review since Ava and Jess already have the password to that.  So that we're not switching every day while we wait for the e-mail issues to be fixed, I'll take Dona up on the kind offer (and thank you to her, Jim, Ava, Jess and Ty).  So the e-mail address (at present) for this site is
Also, in case anyone missed it Saturday,  Trina (also known to some as Mike's mother) started her own site, Trina's Kitchen, Saturday.  Trina intends this to be a once a week site at most and plans to post on Saturdays.  You can find out more at

Yahoo! DSL Something to write home about. Just $16.99/mo. or less