Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Democracy Now: Examing Gonzales; Maureen Farrell, Gihan Perera, Anne Zook,

On Sunday, we did one entry on reporting from outside the US mainstream media (as opposed to the usual two). One item, that Olive noted, was something I thought would get a great deal of attention, so I didn't attempt to force it into the entry on Iraq.

My apologies to Olive because I don't think it got the kind of attention I expected it to.

"US sees China as Biggest military threat" (Kim Landers, Australia's ABC):

The United States has labelled China as its greatest military threat in a new report issued by the Pentagon.
The Pentagon has released its strategic blueprint for dealing with anticipated security threats over the next 20 years.
It says China has the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States and "field disruptive military technologies".
Again, my apologies to Olive because I did assume it would be a big story that we could grab later in the week.
Alberto Gonzales Defends Warrantless Wiretapping
In Washington, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday and defended the Bush administration's decision to carry out warrant-less domestic eavesdropping. Gonzales insisted the program was legal and necessary and that mostly only Americans calling associates of Al Qaeda have been affected. But Republican and Democratic Senators raised numerous concerns over the surveillance. When asked why the president never went to Congress, Gonzales said "The short answer is that we didn't think we needed to, quite frankly." Republican Senator Lindsey Graham responded by saying "In all honesty, Mr. Attorney General the argument that you're making is very dangerous." This is Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy: "The president and the Justice Department have a constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws. They do not write the laws. They do not pass the laws. They do not have unchecked powers to decide what laws to follow. And they certainly don't have the power to decide what laws to ignore. They cannot violate the laws and the rights of ordinary Americans. Mr. Attorney General, in America, our America, nobody is above the law, not even the president of the United States."
Jimmy Carter: Warantless Spying is "Disgraceful and Illegal"
A new critic of the domestic spying program has emerged -- former President Jimmy Carter. He described the Bush administration's decision to go ahead with the warrantless spying as "disgraceful and illegal." Carter said, "No one knows how many innocent Americans have had their privacy violated under this secret act." Carter made the statement in Nevada at an event where his son, Jack, announced he is running for U.S. Senate.
Bush Proposes Big Increase in Defense Spending, Cuts in Social Programs
In his proposed nearly $2.8 trillion budget President Bush is calling for major increases in defense spending but deep cuts in Medicare and other domestic social programs. Under the proposed budget, defense spending will increase nearly 7 percent to $440 billion. If approved the Pentagon's budget will become 45 percent larger than when Bush took office five years ago. The military spending is actually far higher because the proposed budget does not include the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One recent estimate put the cost of the Iraq war at $100,000 every minute. At the same time, the president is proposing to make his tax cuts permanent. This would cost about $1.5 trillion over the next decade. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld discussed the budget on Monday: "The President's budget request for the Department of Defense represents an increase over last year. It reflects what we believe should be the country's national security priorities. Namely to help defend the United States of America and the American people and their interests, to give flexibility to commanders, to prepare for both conventional and unconventional or irregular warfare, and, importantly, to work closely with partner nations to help them develop the capabilities needed to defeat terrorists within their borders and to co-operate with us and other countries with respect to this global threat."

The above three items, selected by Rhonda, Kendrick and Bonnie, are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines. (And we'll come back to the Carter item at the end of this entry.) Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for February 7, 2006

- Alberto Gonzales Defends Warrantless Wiretapping
- Jimmy Carter: Warantless Spying is "Disgraceful and Illegal"
- Reports: AT&T, MCI and Sprint Aided NSA in Spy Operations
- Aristide Ally Expected to Win Haitian Election
- Bush Proposes Big Increase in Defense Spending, Cuts in Social Programs
- Bush Proposes $27M To Jumpstart New Nuclear Weapons Program
- GOP Telecom Lobbyist Tapped to Serve on FCC

Gonzales Grilled at Senate Hearing, Defends NSA Spy Program

Republican and Democratic Senators questioned Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Monday over the Bush administration's right to spy on Americans citizens without court order. We play excerpts of the hearings. [includes rush transcript]

A Look at Gonzales' Testimony on NSA Spying, the Role of Attorney General and the Power of the Executive

As Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales testifies on the National Security Agency's domestic spying program before the Senate Judiciary Committee. We speak with Aziz Huq of NYU Law School about the hearing, the role of Congress and the Executive and the close relationship between Gonzales and the White House.

Freedom of Speech or Incitement to Violence? A Debate Over the Publication of Cartoons of Prophet Muhammed and the Global Muslim Protests

Muslim protests continue to rage around the world against newspapers depicting the Prophet Muhammed. We host a debate with Irshad Manji, author of "The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith" and As'ad AbuKhalil, professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus.

A visitor suggested we link to Margaret Carlson's "Press Corps Should Take Lessons From Oprah" which is available at Common Dreams. We don't link to Margaret Carlson. And the idea that she wants to write a column on this topic is, frankly, laughable. Carlson got her slams in at Gore, untrue slams, because they were "fun." Now she wants to hop on the myth wagon? We won't join her on the journey. We will, however, suggest that if she wants anyone to believe her argument, she might want to go on Oprah herself and let Winfrey read her the riot act on her own 2000 contributions.

Someone worth linking to? Billie notes Maureen Farrell's "Top 10 'Conspiracy Theories' about George W. Bush, Part !" (BuzzFlash):

Predictions are not the same thing as conspiracy theories, of course, but both can occur simultaneously. Sept. 11 commission co-chair Lee Hamilton's prediction that another terrorist attack is all but certain, for example, when combined with concerns about George W. Bush's imperial ambitions, creates the kind of speculation the founding fathers engaged in, long before FOX News was there to pooh-pooh concerns about tyrannical designs.

And though predictions and conspiracy theories are often speculative and contrived, it must be remembered that the term "
tin foil hat" has its roots in historical fact and the tendency to tag a "gate" onto scandals proves that some conspiracy theories do, in fact, turn out to be true.

With the most secretive, power-hungry administration in recent history, George W. Bush has generated a cornucopia of theories. Many of them are
ridiculous while others, like the assorted conspiracies relating to Skull and Bones, simply confirm suspicions about frat boys and prove that privilege and networking do, in fact, catapult people into high places.
Some theories, however, have Tina Turner-strength legs. For your consideration:
10. A Second Terror Attack Will Allow the Bush Administration to Complete the "Coup" that Began on Sept. 11, 2001

"September 11, 2001, played into neoconservative hands exactly as the 1933 Reichstag fire played into Hitler's hands. Fear hysteria, and national emergency are proven tools of political power grabs. Now that the federal courts are beginning to show some resistance to Bush's claims of power, will another terrorist attack allow the Bush administration to complete its coup?"
-- Former Reagan administration official and Wall Street Journal and National Review assistant editor Paul Craig Roberts,
Jan. 2, 2006
"The 9-11 attacks provided the rationale for what amounts to a Bush family coup against the Constitution."
-- James Ridgeway, The Village Voice
, Dec. 30, 2005
Six years ago, anyone suggesting that the Bush administration would use terror to achieve pre-packaged goals would have been laughed out of Dodge. The signs were there, however, going all the way back to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld's stints in the Ford administration through their participation in Reagan-era Doomsday drills.
Initially, there were vague murmurings over foreign airways. "There is a hidden agenda at the very highest levels of our government," a mysterious American told the BBC in Nov. 2001, regarding allegations that the FBI was told to "back off" the bin Ladens. "Unnamed sources" eventually morphed into real people, however, and by the time Pentagon insider Karen Kwiatkowski came forward with revelations about what she called "a coup, a hijacking of the Pentagon," and respected journalist Seymour Hersh proclaimed that "cultists" had "taken the government over," this theory gained traction.

Ned points us to Gihan Perera's "Disaster: The New State of the State" (Left Turn):

On August 25, 2005, Hurricane Katrina breezed through South Florida leaving mass power outages and a bundle of frustrations. Four days later the same storm completely destroyed the Gulf Coast states of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama leaving over 1,000 people dead and entire cities demolished. The busiest hurricane season in recorded history also produced Hurricane Stan which killed over 1,300 people in Central America and Mexico, Rita which forced mass evacuations in Texas, and Wilma which wreaked havoc on South Florida by leaving thousands homeless and millions without power.
Hurricane Stan, Rita, and Wilma have received scant national media attention while Katrina's impact on New Orleans created a worldwide uproar. However, despite the differential attention and scale of the disasters, the storms and their impacts signify a new political era.
The storms are cataclysmic shocks against the 30 year rise of conservative philosophy, power, and policy. In New Orleans, the endless days of stranded Black people and the federal government's complete inability and/or resistance to handle the situation exposed the gulf in race and class, relations and government protection in the wealthiest country in world history. It prompted rapper Kanye West to rip that "President Bush doesn't care about Black people", not poor ones anyway. These torms exposed the deeply rooted and even more sinister social, political, and economic reality of American and global life that have been in the making for decades. The Katrina phenomena is not about one U.S. president's racism. Instead,
it reflects a system that is designed to fail all but its most wealthy citizens. The two weeks of television coverage crystallized the interaction and combustion of the contemporary crises in civil rights, the economy, the environment and the war. Katrina put race on center stage, revealed the impacts of environmental ignorance, and most clearly demonstrated the domestic impacts of United States' military build-up. The cost of U.S. aggression abroad is not only damage done to other peoples, but a steady hollowing of public programs such as education, public health, housing etc.
Most directly, Katrina revealed the the vacuum of state support and infrastructure that is the product of 30 years of right wing policy. The storm unveiled the fault lines of race, class, and governance in American society developed throughout our history. Such exposure marks a potential turning point for the progressive movement inside the U.S.

And last highlight (we'll be backtracking to this morning after this excerpt) is from Jill who notes Anne's "3-Operation Clean-Sweep" (Peevish...I'm Just Saying):

We need a clean sweep this fall. We keep saying it...no more "business as usual" but most of us pay attention briefly during an election year and not otherwise. There's a tiny bit of momentum around the idea of new ethics standards and more open government, but the Right is never going to follow through honestly. They can't. Whether they like the Bush Administration's behavior or they don't, they just can't stand up consistently against them. Their careers would be over.
For that matter, there are a lot of elected "Democrats" in Washington these days who need to just re-register as Republicans and be done with it.
I say, we toss out everyone who has consistently voted with the Bush Administration or who has shown a visible lack of backbone, regardless of Party affiliation, and replace them. I'm not certain yet with whom they should be replaced, but I do know that trained monkeys couldn't make a bigger mockery of the process than most of our Congressional population these days.
It's just not enough any more not to be the worst of the worst. It's not enough to have been keeping a low profile and not attracting attention. Anyone who hasn't been shouting about torture, pressing the Bush Administration on torturing people, demanding answers about illegal spying on USofA citizens, protesting over turning the Supreme Court majority toward rightwing extremism, and speaking out on behalf of abortion rights, peace demonstrators, honest voting systems, cleaning up corporate fraud, or whatever issue(s) you care most about will have to go.
[. . .]
We're angry. If they're not angry, they're not representing us.
They're representatives. If they're not representing us, they have to go.

Now, we begin backtracking to this morning. Jonah, Megan, Micah, and Rachel were the first to e-mail (and I'm not sure who was first, Ava compiled a listing of the first four -- whom I doubt e-mailed in alphabetical order), but in all, 51 New Yorkers weighed in. Members want something to be addressed. This is from this morning's New York Times, Patrick D. Healy's "Senator Clinton Resists 'Angry' Label, Calmly:"

Mrs. Clinton was also asked yesterday about her political action committee's recent donation of $10,000 to Robert P. Casey Jr., a Democratic challenger this year to
Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Unlike Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Casey opposes abortion rights. While some liberals are fighting his candidacy, many Democratic senators are behind Mr. Casey. Mrs. Clinton said a Casey victory could help Democrats displace the slim Republican majority in the Senate.
"I also know Bob Casey -- I admire and like him, he is a good man," Mrs. Clinton said. "We may have disagreements about an important issue, but on every other issue that matters to people I represent -- like Head Start, like trying to make sure we protect health care for vulnerable people -- he's a real champion."

Clinton may want to check with that constituency because there is not an "every other issue . . . he's a real champion" feeling among 51 who e-mailed this morning. There is a feeling of disgust and anger. So that's noted.

Since we're bringing up the Times, let's address one other thing. That was Healy's angle. That's where the story was. Instead, he's too busy recycling GOP talking points. He had a story today. He couldn't see it (the two paragraphs excerpted above are paragrahs eight and nine in an eleventh paragraph story) because instead of looking for his own story (which was staring him right in the face), he was trying to nail down an affirmation or a denial of the GOP talking point of "angry."

Common sense, which "reporters" don't generally possess a large quantity of, would tell you this is a hard sell. Hillary can give an impassioned speech. She can give many. Repeatedly if she wants. However, it's doubtful she'd end up tarred "angry" by anyone but the chattering class. It's a pointless talking point. America saw her during the impeachment. They saw her during the revelations of Bill Clinton's . . . whatever. The point is, the way she handled herself during that is a core memory for most Americans. "Angry" is not going to play. The GOP can keep pushing that but they're going up against a root memory from less than a decade ago.

There was a story, but a reporter trying to prove or disprove a GOP talking point couldn't realize the actual story amounted to more than an aside.

We've got one more note. Brady noted something in the Times. It's from "National Briefing" A13. Brady wanted it noted because it's about Jimmy Carter's son. We're noting it for another reason, however:

Jack Carter, son of former President Jimmy Carter announced he would run as a Democrat for the Senate representing Nevada. At a rally in Henderson, Mr. Carter, left criticized the incumbent, John Ensign, a Republican, as following the party line. Mr. Carter, 58, an investment consultant, is the only Democrat in the race so far, although Mayor Oscar Goodman of Las Vegas has discussed the possibility of a Senate big. (AP)

Why are we noting it? Well go back to an item in the paper that's missed if someone's impassioned (or if fifty or more are impassioned) but we don't cover everything in the paper.

So Jack Carter declared yesterday, did he? In Henderson? We actually linked to an article noting this last night.

"Under the Bush administration, there's been a disgraceful and illegal decision -- we're not going to the let the judges or the Congress or anyone else know that we're spying on the American people," Carter told reporters. "And no one knows how many innocent Americans have had their privacy violated under this secret act."

When Jimmy Carter said the above, he was saying it at that event. Which is why we're noting it. The New York Times, on the day when they're whitewashing what happened in the NSA hearings yesterday, have the opportunity to note a former president's remarks on the activities and choose not to.

I didn't bother with the "National Briefing" this morning, so thank you to Brady. But this is the same event that Jimmy Carter spoke at and made his comments regarding the illegal activites of the Bully Boy. (See Democracy Now! headline near the start of this entry.) The Times could have included it. It didn't. Not just in any of the lame articles they ran today but they could have also included it in "National Briefing" -- they chose not to.

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