Saturday, May 20, 2006

Kat's Korner: Springsteen's Seeger Sessions

Kat: If you're a Bruce Springsteen fan, you know he's worth listening to and you live for the moments where he is more than that. The Nebraska moments, the Born in the U.S.A. moments, The River moments. Those are the highs. Though some might disagree, I've never really noticed any lows. At his "worst," he's still listenable. With or without the E Street Band, you can toss him on the stereo -- pretty much blindly -- and know you won't have to grab the remote and stand close by to avoid the groaners.

For me, there's one "worst" album in the Springsteen canon: Greatest Hits. Now true, I don't care for repackaging studio cuts, but I found little on that album that was worth getting excited about. It was the dullest, safest mix and it's probably the only one that I've never popped out of the case and played again after the initial hearings.

He's got a new album out, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. Seeger being Pete Seeger, the legend, the pioneer -- add your own adjective of choice. He's not with the E Street Band and if you're thinking that means you're getting Nebraska or The Ghost of Tom Joad, you're mistaken. On this album, he plays "guitar, mandolin, B3 organ, piano, percussion, harmonica, tambourine" and contributes backing vocals as well as leading vocals. A far cry from Nebraska which was was recorded by Springsteen on a really crappy tape recorder and finally released with a few tweeks after attempts at re-recording the home recordings never captured the hypnotic and powerful quality he'd created more or less by himself -- chiefly with his vocals and guitar playing. In addition to the variety of instruments he plays this go round, thirteen people contribute assistance.

It's a loud album. Loud's not bad. But it's one that you may need to listen to repeatedly in order to appreciate. You think "Pete Seeger," you usually picture a solitary man, onstage, with his guitar. Springsteen could have done that. It was probably wise not to.

The point of the album is not just to provide a tribute. There's nothing wrong with the concept of a tribute album (though the execution of one is often frightening -- such as a Jimi Henrix album released not all that long ago). But at best, what happens is that a few fans of the artist, or artists, doing the tribute end up learning of a musician. A few may even seek out the artist receiving the tribute's own recordings.

Springsteen's doing something similar here to Dolly Parton's recent Those Were The Days. It's a louder, muscular version and that sometimes turns off people. It's why some refer to his music as "jock rock." But like Parton, he's digging into the past to comment on the world now.

Here are some of the gripes I've heard about this album.

"It's not Pete Seeger's songs!"

It's called the Seeger Sessions and for those not familiar with folk tradition, Harry Belafonte, Malvina Reynolds, Miriam Makeba and others were doing something new when they began performing original songs. (Yes, this predates the emergence of Bob Dylan as a songwriter and, yes, it's overlooked in the rush to holler, "Praise be to Dylan! God of all music!") In the mid-20th century, folk artists usually went to the "roots" which meant traditional folk songs that might have been forgotten were the artists not there to bring them to the attention of a new generation. So these are songs Seeger has recorded (and a few of them are ones he had a hand in writing).

"It's too loud!"

It's a look at America and, in case you missed it, we're rarely seen overseas as reticent. Hearing the power in his voice as he sings "John Henry" is something you'll either enjoy or you won't. I have a hard time figuring out how you sing "Erie Canal" without using a powerful voice. (Though a stark presentation might work as well, the song -- with repeated cries of "low bridge" -- really requires a powerful reading.) The loudness critique actually came from a twenty-one-year-old friend who is devoted to "hardcore." (Sh, don't tell him it's died.)

The reason he thinks it's too loud? "I bought this for a relaxing listen." This is an active listen. It's not the sort of CD you put on at the end of a long day when you're relaxing before bedtime. It's a blood pumping CD.

"It's too fussy."

That actually may be the most apt criticism for those who like their Springsteen stripped down (Nebraska, The Ghost of Tom Joad). (For those who like their Springsteen really stripped down, he used to favor blue briefs.) He's working with a large band and those not familiar with the hootenany form will be left scratching their heads. Hopefully the success of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack provides some form of a starting point for those asking "Hoot-a-what?"

"We Shall Overcome" is the song that's getting most of the ink. It's a quieter version that you may be used to, one that vocally recalls Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia." Most friends really enjoy the album but they have issues with the track order. Sumner, for instance, thinks "Jesse James" should have been the opener because it starts off soft (as most people probably expect) and transitions quickly into the group effort present on the album.

But even those who would rearrange the track listing, can't stop listening (even if they use the program function on their CD players to put the disc in the order they wish it came in). A few listens and I'm guessing you will too. He's not coasting and using "tribute" to hide behind uninspired. He's fully committed to the music and, for Springsteen fans, that's probably all they need to know about We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.

RadioNation with Laura Flanders; Sat: Penny Lang & more; Sun: Greg Palast & more

Crosspost -- Laura's on now.

RadioNation with Laura Flanders, Guns and Butter and more

Saturday. Means what? RadioNation with Laura Flanders, for one thing. Hopefully, it means many things for you but, no matter how bad things get, you can always look forward to the ray of light called Laura.

Saturday Is a weak Congress, crumbling White House and ever-stronger Pentagon the current state of the nation? We talk to JAMES CAROLL, author of "House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power." Then CHARLES WILSON, co-author of "Chew On This: Everything You Don't Want To Know About Fast Food," on the food industry attack on the new movie "Fast Food Nation" based on the book wrote with Eric Schlosser. And Canada’s First Lady of Folk Music, PENNY LANG, who skipped a Phil Ochs tribute to be with us and her latest album Stone+Sand+Sea+Sky.

Phil Ochs makes me remember to say heads up to Polly's Brew tomorrow. Polly was at one of the two concerts Donovan gave in London and will be reviewing it, so check your inboxes for that tomorrow.

Also tomorrow, on Laura's show:

What does it mean to be a friend of America and citizen these days? Do good fences make good neighbors? Our Media Roundtable includes Nation contributor BRUCE SHAPIRO and blogger CHRISTY HARDIN SMITH of Firedoglake. And GREG PALAST on why Bush loves $3 a gallon gas, war-mongering with oil-producing nations and other sordid tales from his new book, "Armed Madhouse: Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf? China Floats, Bush Sinks, The Scheme to Steal '08, No Child's Behind Left, and other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War."

A female blogger! Gasp. Well, unlike some shows on that radio network, Laura's not suffering from "You mean a woman can do that? And does?" Greg Palast is always a wonderful guest and he was very funny yesterday on KPFA's The Morning Show -- even if he did forget what station he was on. I felt like Philip Maldari (co-host) had a point to make that he never got to, Palast was riffing all over the place. Andrea Lewis wisely decided to sit back and enjoy the ride.(For news on Ruth check out Rebecca's "the ruth & elijah report" -- and I'm glad Ruth's taking another week off. She's more than earned it and it's a great sign that, unlike the trip she and Treva took after Ruth's husband passed away, she's able to enjoy this one.)

Wednesday on KPFA's Guns and Butter, Bonnie Faulkner broadcast a speech by Dr. William Pepper about the questions that still surround the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. This was pretty amazing and I hope you'll find time to listen to it if you missed it.

Pepper represented James Earl Ray (starting in the mid-seventies). Ray went to prison for the murder of MLK but Ray was never given a trial. He was still attempting to get a trial when he died (1998, I believe). Sam Donaldson had an interview, in the early 90s, with a man who stated he was part of the conspiracy to kill MLK. And the interview played on Prime Time Live and wasn't noted anywhere. The King family took civil action against the man, Pepper represented the family, and won. But the press wasn't interested in covering the story. (Why not?)

The court transcripts and other documents, which I believe establish the conspiracy to assassinate MLK, are at the King Center. I started thinking, as KPFA's Guns and Butter will make you think, and begun to wonder if that wasn't the reason why the government wants to purchase the King Center?

Other things to check out: "THIS JUST IN! NO BULLY BOY LEFT BEHIND! "
"And the war drags on (Indymedia Roundup)"
"Surprise interview"
"Democracy Now: Eduardo Galeano"
"rebecca winters has a warning"
"Dry Drunk Bully Boy"
"Hayden Defends Domestic Spy Program At Confirmation Hearing"
"The (Other) Story Judith Miller Didn't Write"

NYT: Carl Hulse provides the primer on advocacy journalism

The New York Times is noted for shifting the way newspapers did business. They popularized the 'balanced' approach. They steer away from 'advocacy journalism.' That's, of course, a myth. And it doesn't take a bird's nest outside the home of someone 'who matters' to suddenly front page an issue (on a national edition, no less) that's really not of national importance. But today's 'report' by Carl Hulse acts as a primer in how the paper does advocacy journalism.

It's entitled "Bipartisan Group Thwarts Foes of Immigration Bill." Big business supports the Senate plan which does nothing but place undocumented workers at the mercy of their employers and add an additional hoop, lengthy, that they must leap over to begin. Repeat, to begin -- the process of applying for citizenship. It does not guarantee citizenship, nor does it provide any real benefits to immigrants. If you park your car at the supermarket before going inside to purchase your groceries, it's the equivalent of adding on a new building you must pass through to reach the grocery store -- and passing through takes years.

So the Times supports the proposal because Wall St. saved their butts many a time going way back. And they've done their best to promote the proposal not just in the editorials but in what is supposed to be the straight reporting. Reports on immigration protests have usally contained cautionary tales such as people being fired for participating (without ever quoting those fired). Also absent from that coverage have been the voices explaining why the Senate proposal was unfair and how it did nothing to ease immigration (as it's portrayed as doing) but instead resulted in another obstacle in the path to applying for citizenship.

Today Carl Hulse tells you of the "foes" to the plan. Plural. But the "foes" are the usual "foes" the Times trots out for this proposal. They're the ones who can be seen as xenophobes and reactionary. (At last, a story where it's worth the paper noting John Cornyn of Texas!) But what of the foes who are against the proposal not because they see it as 'amnesty' (it's not amnesty) but because they think the proposal is harmful to immigrants?

Those 'foes' aren't mentioned. They don't exist. They can't. Noting them would spoil the advocacy journalism that the paper practices.

Whether it's Social Security, health care or whatever, the paper presents you with the reactionary view and then the one that's supposed to make readers jump on board, the one the paper endorses.

So readers of the Times, if that's the only place they go for their news, are unaware that many immigration advocates think the best thing that could happen was for the two houses of Congress to be unable to hammer out anything -- thereby allowing them to do what they do so well, session after session: nothing.

The paper can't tell you about those 'foes.' They aren't small in number. They aren't shy about expressing their opinions (as anyone who attended even one immigration rally could tell you). But they're invisible on the pages of the paper.

Here's the way the model works for the paper. Insist there is a problem that must be addressed NOW. Then present two sides, the most extreme and the extreme in sheep's clothing. Be sure to pile on the most extreme so that readers are disgusted and ready for their 'salvation' which you provide by explaining the 'answer.'

In a similar form, last Sunday's suck up to Hayden. There the point was to drag Dick Cheney into the story. Toss his name in the headline to be sure the point is made: Cheney, enemy of the people. Now true, it's a role he's cast himself in -- and one he plays quite well -- but Cheney wasn't the focus of the article. He wasn't even the second most important subtopic. But by contrasting Hayden with the most vile, suddenly we're all supposed to breathe a sigh of relief. "Thank God for Hayden!" The peeping Tom as the last guardian. It only plays if you can set him up against a nemesis the audience loves to boo and hiss.

So today, they offer yet another editorial passing as reporting while they hope that long term readers and newer ones aware of the paper's history (what they want emphasized, not the darker side) see the immigration coverage as part of the somewhat historical coverage the Times did on the civil rights movement. History, true history, would have to note how uncomfortable they got very quickly (consider it their own version of white flight) -- especially when MLK wanted to address things such as employment and the war. Whether that was the reason there was no need to explore the passing of Coretta Scott King on the op-ed pages or if it was just due to the fact that the paper thinks everyone's more interested when one of their friends passes, who knows? They dash off their badly written pieces on playwrights (someone really does think she's Carrie in Sex in the City, doesn't she? -- well, it's good to know she has an active fantasy life) "rememberance" and of course there's been the rush to weigh in on the vile A.M. Rosenthal more recently. (By contrast, when one of their leading "names" of an earlier period was trashed by Bully Boy in a 2004 debate, the only one to come to the dead woman's defense was Maureen Dowd by noting the reality as opposed to Bully Boy's smear/spin.)

After awhile, you may start to wonder if the support for MLK and others, originally, didn't result from the paper's hope that MLK or whomever would "whip those people" into line?

Along with 'balance,' the paper's been a leader in the goal of turning elections into A Day At The Races. If you can make it all about personality, you don't even have to address the issues. Addressing the the reality that the "bipartisan" plan only lengthens the citizenship process (actually postpones it by creating a new and lengthy hurdle) while leaving immigrants at the mercy of employers (whom the Times must believe are all well intentioned, right?) might provide too much information, surely too much for the paper to sway the public with their model. Better to make it about 'good' and 'bad' people -- you're either with the paper or your against it, huffs Bill Keller. Never going deeper than a Proctor & Gamble commerical, but insisting it's reporting, the only thing the supposedly brave Timid will ever 'clean up' is the image of shady politicians.

Case in point, John McCain. This entry was lost somewhere around the fourth paragraph and I'm not devoting my morning to the paper of no record. So no link to the story (and if the above seems disjointed, that's why -- I lost a hilarious, to a friend I was reading the draft too at least, analogy of Hulse as spear carrier) on the reaction to John McCain delivering his speech at The New School. To me, what's most offensive is that McCain's delivering the same speech. That really doesn't cut it. McCain's not a humorist (though he does provide many cheap laughs). To go college to college delivering the same speech (by rote) is really insulting. By rote -- at educations of higher learning. Some noted, in the audience, that they weren't a campaign stop. They're not. McCain either needs to find something worth saying (as opposed to reciting) or he needs to stop polluting the graduations.

The content? The students and the faculty objected (the paper tells you -- so did people in the audience who weren't students or faculty but the paper wants to play it as 'the academy v. McCain'). That's their right. McCain gave his pro-war speech. That's his right -- provided he doesn't simply go from town to town delivering the same speech. These aren't rubber chicken dinner luncheons. If he has so little to say (on any topic), he should stop giving speeches.

If our recent past isn't a distant memory, many may remember the attacks on many (including Chris Hedges) for daring to interject the world into their speeches. The right whined that graduations are the place for "inspiration" (because, apparently, in a few weeks inspiration would be in short supply for graduates dealing with the crushing economy). I think, personally, anything is fit for a graduation. You're covering two spheres (at the very least) -- the contained nature of the university and the world that awaits. I could care less that McCain gives a pro-war speech at any college (I do question his being invited to The New School and the lack of input the students were given into the decision). I do care that he gave the same speech. All the colleges on his "circuit" should pay him one fee and issue him only one honorary degree. He hasn't earned the right to fees from everyone or for multiple degrees. (The honory degree is at the heart of the true degree mill.)

His resorting to the same speech in stop after stop demonstrates that he doesn't see any individuality offered by any of the colleges he's droning on at. They're all the same, the students are all the same and, by God, let him get to the period already so he can take a breath!

It's nonsense and it shouldn't be allowed. Free speech allows him to say whatever he wants (and to get whatever response he gets -- I think those assembled gave him a fitting response) but quit kidding that he has anything to offer any college. He's turning commencements into a speaking tour. (He's far from the only one.) And that's not fair to the students or anyone else who has to suffer through bad speakers delivering dead speeches. He should return any fee and any honorary he was given for the speech and Bob Kerry should send out an apology to every student for forcing them to hear the same speech he'd give to any other school. If The New School is just the same as every other one, then possibly Kerry and the registrar should also look into offering refunds to students who chose The New School because they believed it had something to offer, something of value, that could only be found on that campus?

Brady notes Susan Haigh's "Democrats endorsed Sen." (Associated Press):

Joe Lieberman's bid for a fourth term Friday, but an anti-war challenger collected enough delegates to force the senator into his first primary fight as an incumbent. Ned Lamont, a wealthy Greenwich businessman who has sharply criticized the moderate senator for supporting the war in Iraq, will face Lieberman in the Aug. 8 primary.

Brady is strongly opposed to Lieberam (and has made that known here since January of last year) and sees Lamont's forcing Lieberman into a primary as a victory "regardless of what happens next."

Kat will be posting here today (much later today). Rebecca's "the ruth & elijah report" is must reading so must read it already. Elaine and Mike are posting this morning and Betty's posting this afternoon. Trina's planning to post. Be sure to check out Wally's "THIS JUST IN! NO BULLY BOY LEFT BEHIND!" If not today, but hopefully today, then tomorrow, I'll be noting something West will be happy about. (Music, Matthew Rothschild.) Right now, I just intend to post this and go back to sleep.

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UNICEF: 25% de los niños iraquíes padecen desnutricion

Maria: Buenos dias. De parte de "Democracy Now!" once cosas que vale hacer notar este fin de semana. Paz.

Nuevo Primer Ministro italiano promete retirar a soldados de Irak
En Italia, el nuevo Primer Ministro, Romano Prodi, marcó los primeros días de su nuevo gobierno prometiendo retirar a los soldados italianos de Irak. Prodi fue abucheado por los miembros del parlamento que apoyan a su predecesor, Silvio Berlusconi.
Prodi dijo: "Consideramos que la guerra en Irak y la ocupación de este país es un grave error. La guerra no ha resuelto sino que ha complicado el problema de la seguridad. El terrorismo encontró en Irak una nueva base, y nuevas excusas para llevar a cabo ataques terroristas dentro y fuera del conflicto iraquí... Este gobierno pretende proponerle al parlamento el regreso de nuestros soldados, a pesar de que estamos orgullosos de su capacidad profesional, su valentía y la humanidad que han demostrado y siguen demostrando".

Murtha: investigación de Haditha indica que infantes de marina asesinaron a iraquíes "a sangre fría"
El Pentágono concluyó su investigación del asesinato a balazos de civiles llevado a cabo por infantes de marina estadounidenses en la ciudad iraquí de Haditha. El miércoles, el congresista demócrata de Pennsylvania John Murtha afirmó que la investigación demostrará que los infantes de marina "mataron a civiles inocentes a sangre fría". Ciudadanos iraquíes dicen que quince aldeanos fueron asesinados luego que soldados estadounidenses los metieron en una habitación de una casa, ubicada cerca de la ciudad de Balad. Entre las personas que murieron se encontraban cinco niños y cuatro mujeres. Las personas que fueron asesinadas tenían entre seis meses y 75 años de edad. Inicialmente, el Pentágono afirmó que los civiles habían muerto en un atentado con bombas al costado de una carretera, pero Murtha dijo: "No fue un enfrentamiento armado. No fue ningún artefacto casero lo que mató a esas personas inocentes. Nuestros soldados reaccionaron de manera exagerada debido a la presión que hay sobre ellos. Y mataron a civiles inocentes a sangre fría. Eso es lo que dirá el informe".

UNICEF: 25% de los niños iraquíes padecen desnutrición
Mientras tanto, un estudio llevado a cabo por el gobierno iraquí y UNICEF concluyó que una cuarta parte de los niños iraquíes sufren de desnutrición.

Informe: Estados Unidos envió soldados con enfermedades mentales a Irak
En otras noticias de Irak, el periódico "Hartford Courant" informa que las fuerzas armadas estadounidenses enviaron en forma rutinaria a soldados que se sabía que padecían problemas mentales para que pelearan en Irak. El periódico dijo que 22 soldados estadounidenses, una cifra histórica, se suicidaron en Irak el año pasado. En varios casos los soldados permanecieron en servicio incluso luego de que intentaron suicidarse.

Cindy Sheehan encabeza vigilia contra la guerra en el Día de la Madre
En Washington, la activista por la paz Cindy Sheehan pasó el Día de la Madre en una vigilia contra la guerra frente a la Casa Blanca, junto con la actriz Susan Sarandon, las madres de otros soldados, y veteranos de la guerra de Irak.

Hayden defiende programa de espionaje nacional en audiencia de confirmación
El general Michael Hayden compareció el jueves ante el Senado, para asistir al primer día de audiencias de confirmación que lo convertirían en el nuevo director de la CIA. El ex director de la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional (NSA, por sus siglas en inglés) defendió en reiteradas ocasiones la legalidad del programa secreto de escuchas telefónicas sin garnatías de la NSA, que él mismo ayudó a diseñar.
Hayden dijo: "A principios de octubre de 2001, cuando tuve que tomar esta decisión personal, y fue una decisión personal, las matemáticas eran bastante simples. No podía hacerlo... Sabíamos que este era un asunto serio, y que las medidas que estábamos tomando, aunque estábamos convencidos de que eran legales, las estábamos tomando en un régimen que era diferente del régimen que existió el 10 de septiembre".
El general Hayden se negó a contestar preguntas durante la parte pública de la audiencia acerca de una serie de asuntos, que incluían los métodos usados en los interrogatorios, las prisiones secretas de la CIA, y el verdadero alcance del programa de vigilancia del gobierno.

Votación del senado hace que el inglés sea el "idioma nacional" de Estados Unidos
En Capitol Hill, el Senado votó el jueves para hacer del inglés el "idioma nacional" de Estados Unidos. La medida confirma que nadie tiene derecho a realizar comunicaciones o notificaciones federales en un idioma que no sea el inglés, salvo en los casos garantizados por ley. Los activistas por los derechos de los inmigrantes dijeron que la votación era una gran derrota.

Senado vota para construir cerca fronteriza de 595 kilómetros
El Senado votó a favor de la construcción de una cerca en algunas partes de la frontera de Estados Unidos con México, para impedir que inmigrantes ilegales entren al país. En total, se agregarían 595 kilómetros de barreras triples cerca de San Diego y en el desierto de Arizona. Los senadores también aprobaron una disposición que impediría que los inmigrantes ilegales eleven una petición solicitando un permiso para trabajar legalmente sin el patrocinio de un empleador. Asimismo, el Senado aprobó unánimemente una enmienda que prohibiría otorgarle permisos laborales a inmigrantes indocumentados que hubieran sido procesados por algún delito, o al menos por tres faltas. Esta medida afectará incluso a aquellos que no respetaron una orden judicial de deportación.

Bush: seis mil soldados de la Guardia Nacional serán desplegados en la frontera
El Presidente Bush solicitó el despliegue de seis mil soldados de la Guardia Nacional en la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México. La propuesta de Bush tuvo lugar durante un inusual discurso televisivo transmitido en horario central, durante el cual también llamó al Congreso a que encontrara una forma de acordar una reforma inmigratoria. Bush dijo: "Estados Unidos debe asegurar sus fronteras. Es la responsabilidad básica de una nación soberana. También es una exigencia urgente de nuestra seguridad nacional. Nuestro objetivo es claro: se debe abrir la frontera al comercio y a la inmigración legal y cerrarla a los inmigrantes ilegales, al igual que a los delincuentes, narcotraficantes y terroristas".
La solicitud del Presidente Bush de enviar soldados de la Guardia Nacional a la frontera con México ya recibió amplias críticas. El Presidente mexicano Vicente Fox llamó a la Casa Blanca el domingo, para expresar su preocupación por lo que consideraba la "militarización de la frontera".
En Washington, varios políticos dijeron que la Guardia Nacional ya sobrepasó su límite. Escuchamos al senador demócrata Richard Durbin. "¿Qué más le vamos a pedir a la Guardia Nacional? Ya demostraron que harían todo lo que se les pidiera para proteger y defender a este país. Lo demostraron en Irak, Afganistán y en la Costa del Golfo luego del Katrina, pero nuestras Guardias y reservas abarcan demasiado".
Según el "Los Angeles Times", miembros de la Guardia serán desplegados en la frontera en turnos de dos semanas, durante un período en el que normalmente estarían en entrenamiento. Al perder dos semanas de entrenamiento, el plan de Bush podría tener como consecuencia que los soldados de la Guardia estén menos preparados para desempeñar su función principal, que es la de responder a los desastres naturales o de otra índole.

Guardias estadounidenses le dispararon a conductor que se dirigía a México en cruce de San Diego
Mientras tanto, la frontera entre San Diego y Tijuana permaneció cerrada el jueves durante más de nueve horas, cuando guardias de la frontera le dispararon de muerte al conductor de un vehículo que se dirigía a México. Los guardias siguieron al vehículo luego de que agentes de la aduana vieron que levantó pasajeros cerca del lado estadounidense del cruce de la frontera. Los agentes dijeron que le dispararon al conductor cuando intentó huir.

NYPD investigado por conducta en Convención Nacional Republicana de 2004
"Democracy Now!" se enteró de que el Departamento de Justicia lanzó una investigación penal de derechos civiles hacia el Departamento de Policía de Nueva York (NYPD, por sus siglas en inglés), por la manera en que este trató a manifestantes durante la Convención Nacional Republicana. Durante la semana en que se celebró la convención de 2004, la policía arrestó a unos 1.800 manifestantes, más que en cualquier otra convención política en la historia del país.

Maria: Good morning. Now in English, here are eleven news stories from Democracy Now! Peace.

New Italian PM Pledges Iraq Troop Withdrawal
In Italy, new Prime Minister Romano Prodi marked the opening days of his new government by pledging to withdraw Italian troops from Iraq. Prodi was greeted with boos by parliamentary supporters of his predecessor, Sylvio Berlusconi.
Romano Prodi: "We consider the war in Iraq and the occupation of this country a grave error. The war has not resolved but complicated the problem of security. Terrorism found in Iraq a new base, and new excuses for terrorist acts inside and outside the Iraqi conflict… It is the intention of this government to propose to parliament the return of our troops even if we are proud of their professional ability, their courage and humanity that they have giving and are still giving."

Murtha: Haditha Probe Shows Marines Killed Iraqis "In Cold Blood"
The Pentagon has concluded its investigation into the shooting deaths of civilians in the Iraqi city of Haditha at the hands of US Marines. On Wednesday, Democratic Congressmember John Murtha of Pennsylvania said the probe will show that Marines: "killed innocent civilians in cold blood." Iraqis say 15 villagers were killed after US troops herded them into one room of a house near the city of Balad. The dead included five children and four women and ranged in age from 6 months to 75 years old. The Pentagon initially claimed the civilians had died in a roadside bombing. But Murtha said: "There was no firefight. There was no improvised explosive device that killed those innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them. And they killed innocent civilians in cold blood. That is what the report is going to tell."

UNICEF: 25% of Iraqi Children Suffer Malnutrition
Meanwhile, a survey carried out by the Iraqi government and UNICEF has concluded a quarter of all Iraqi children suffer from malnutrition.

Report: U.S. Deployed Mentally Ill Soldiers to Iraq
In other news from Iraq, the Hartford Courant reports the U.S. military has routinely deployed soldiers with known mental problems to fight in Iraq. The paper said a record 22 U.S. troops committed suicide in Iraq last year. In several cases soldiers remained on active duty even after they attempted suicide.

Cindy Sheehan Leads Mother's Day Anti-War Vigil
In Washington, peace campaigner Cindy Sheehan spent Mothers Day in an anti-war vigil outside the White House along with actress Susan Sarandon, other military mothers and Iraq war veterans.

Hayden Defends Domestic Spy Program At Confirmation Hearing
General Michael Hayden appeared before Senate Thursday for the first day of his confirmation hearings to become the new head of the CIA. The former director of the National Security Agency repeatedly defended the legality of the NSA's secret warrant-less domestic eavesdropping program that he helped design.
General Michael Hayden: "When I had to make this personal decision in early October, 2001 -- and it was a personal decision -- the math was pretty straight forward. I could not not do this… We knew that this was a serious issue, and that the steps we were taking, although convinced of their lawfulness, we were taking them in a regime that was different from the regime that existed on 10th September."

General Hayden refused to answer questions during the public portion of the hearing on a number of issues including interrogation methods, secret CIA prisons and the true extent of the government’s surveillance program.

Senate Vote Makes English US "National Language"
On Capitol Hill, the Senate voted Thursday to make English the "national language" of the United States. The measure affirms that that no one has a right to federal communications or services in a language other than English except those already guaranteed by law. Immigrant-rights activists called the vote a major defeat.

Senate Votes To Build 370-Mile Border Fence
The Senate has voted to build a fence along parts of the Mexico border to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the country. In total, 370 miles of triple-layered barriers would be added near San Diego and in the Arizona desert. Senators also approved a provision that would prevent illegal immigrants from petitioning for a guest-worker permit without the sponsorship an employer. And in a unanimous vote, Senate accepted an amendment that would bar granting work permits to undocumented immigrants convicted of either a felony or at least three misdemeanors. The measure would effect even those who ignored a court-deportation order.

Bush: 6,000 National Guard Troops to Be Deployed to Border
President Bush has called for 6,000 National Guard troops to be deployed to the U.S.-Mexican border. Bush's proposal came during a rare prime-time address during which he also called on Congress to find a way to agree on immigration reform.
President Bush: "The United States must secure its borders. This is a basic responsibility of a sovereign nation. It is also an urgent requirement of our national security. Our objective is straightforward: the border should be open to trade and lawful immigration and shut to illegal immigrants, as well as criminals, drug dealers and terrorists."

President Bush's call for National Guard troops on the Mexican border has already been widely criticized. Mexican President Vicente Fox called the White House on Sunday to express concern over the increased militarization of the border. In Washington numerous politicians said the National Guard is already stretched too thin.
Democratic Senator Richard Durbin: "How much more are we going to ask our National Guard? They have shown they will do everything asked of them to protect and defend this nation. They have demonstrated that in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Gulf Coast after Katrina, but our Guards and reserves are stretched dangerously thin."

According to the Los Angeles Times, members of the Guard will be deployed to the border for two-week shifts during a period when they would normally be in training. By losing two weeks of training, Bush's plan might result in Guard troops being less prepared for their primary roles -- responding to natural and other disasters.

Mexico-Bound Driver Shot By US Guards At San Diego Crossing
Meanwhile, the border between San Diego and Tijuana was closed for over nine hours Thursday when border guards shot and killed the driver of a car headed for Mexico. The car was followed after custom agents saw it pick up passengers near the US side of the border crossing. Agents said they shot the driver when he tried to speed off.

NYPD Investigated For Conduct At 2004 RNC
Democracy Now! has learned the Justice Department has launched a criminal civil rights investigation of the New York Police Department over the NYPD’s treatment of protesters during the Republican National Convention. During the week of the 2004 convention, police arrested some 1800 protesters -- more than at any previous political convention in the country’s history.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Democracy Now: Eduardo Galeano

Murtha: Haditha Probe Shows Marines Killed Iraqis "In Cold Blood"
The Pentagon has concluded its investigation into the shooting deaths of civilians in the Iraqi city of Haditha at the hands of US Marines. On Wednesday, Democratic Congressmember John Murtha of Pennsylvania said the probe will show that Marines: "killed innocent civilians in cold blood." Iraqis say 15 villagers were killed after US troops herded them into one room of a house near the city of Balad. The dead included five children and four women and ranged in age from 6 months to 75 years old. The Pentagon initially claimed the civilians had died in a roadside bombing. But Murtha said: "There was no firefight. There was no improvised explosive device that killed those innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them. And they killed innocent civilians in cold blood. That is what the report is going to tell."

Judge Dismisses Case of Wrongfully-Held CIA Detainee
And a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a German citizen who says U.S. agents mistakenly kidnapped him and sent him to a secret prison in Afghanistan. The man, Khaled El-Masri, alleges he was first detained while on vacation in Macedonia. Once in CIA custody he says he was repeatedly beaten, roughly interrogated by masked men, detained in squalid conditions and denied access to an attorney or his family. He was only released after the CIA realized they had detained the wrong man, and left him alone on an abandoned road in Albania. On Thursday, the judge ruled proceeding with El-Masri's case would harm national security. Ben Wizner, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who is representing al-Masri, said he will file an appeal. Wizner said: "[The ruling] confers a blank check on the CIA to shield even the most outrageous conduct from judicial review."

Nepal Strips King Guyanendra of Sweeping Powers
In Nepal, lawmakers approved a series of measures Thursday that remove some of the most sweeping powers of King Gyanendra. The King will no longer control the army, and lose his title as supreme commander-in-chief. The government will no longer be called "His Majesty's Government" but just Nepal government. The resolution was met with victory rallies across the country.

Ex-Intelligence Official Links US Coal Company to Union Killings
Meanwhile, Garcia has reportedly given new testimony that links a US coal company to the assassination of two Colombian labor leaders. In a sworn statement as part of a civil suit against Alabama-based Drummond, Garcia said he saw Colombian representatives of the company hand over a suitcase full of money to pay for the assassinations of two labor leaders in 2001.

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Tori, Kansas, KeShawn and Diana. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for May 19, 2006
- Hayden Defends Domestic Spy Program At Confirmation Hearing
- New Italian PM Pledges Iraq Troop Withdrawal
- Murtha: Haditha Probe Shows Marines Killed Iraqis "In Cold Blood"
- Colombian Judges Say Paramilitaries Forced Pro-Uribe Vote Fraud
- Ex-Intelligence Official Links US Coal Company to Union Killings
- UN: US Should Close Guantanamo Bay Prison
- Judge Dismisses Case of Wrongfully
-Held CIA Detainee

Hayden Defends Domestic Spy Program At Confirmation Hearing
General Michael Hayden appeared before Senate Thursday for his confirmation hearings to become the new head of the CIA. The former director of the National Security Agency repeatedly defended the legality of the NSA's secret warrant-less domestic eavesdropping program that he helped design. [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZALEZ: We turn now to the Senate Intelligence Committee's confirmation hearing of General Michael Hayden to become the new head of the CIA. On Thursday, the former director of the National Security Agency repeatedly defended the legality of the NSA's secret warrantless domestic eavesdropping program that he helped design. This is Republican Senator Kit Bond from Missouri questioning Hayden.
SEN. KIT BOND: Did you ever personally believe the program was illegal?
SEN. KIT BOND: Did you believe that your primary responsibility as Director of NSA was to execute a program that your NSA lawyers, the Justice Department lawyers and White House officials all told you was legal and that you were ordered to carry it out by the President of the United States?
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Sir, when I had to make this personal decision in early October 2001, and it was a personal decision, the math was pretty straightforward. I could not not do this.
AMY GOODMAN: Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold later challenged Hayden to explain how he came to the conclusion that the program was legal, even though the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act explicitly prohibits warrantless domestic surveillance.

"Voices of Time": Legendary Uruguayan Writer Eduardo Galeano on Immigration, Latin America, Iraq, Writing -- and Soccer
We spend the rest of the hour with one of Latin America's most acclaimed writers -- Eduardo Galeano. His works -- from the trilogy "Memory of Fire" to the classic "Open Veins of Latin America" are a unique blend of history, fiction, journalism and political analysis. His books have been translated into more than 20 languages. [includes rush transcript - partial]

Iraq snapshot.

Let's start with tomorrow. On Saturday, as the Associated Press and CBS note, the plan is "to swear in Iraq's new prime minister and Cabinet." The AP also notes rumors that Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister to be, "might appoint himself to head the two ministries until all parties can agree." Dropping back to yesterday, Italy's new prime minister, Romano Prodi, has declared the illegal Iraq war a "grave error" notes China's People's Daily Online. Also yesterday, details of the Pentagon's plan to blind drivers at checkpoints was covered by Reuters (and others). Reuters reports that Hussain al-Shahristani will be Iraq's new oil minister -- surprising only to those who didn't follow the "work" of the Iraq Foundation going back to before the illegal invasion. (Translation, war planners are dropping the war dance long enough for a dance of joy.)

UNICEF's David Singh estimates "850,000 Iraqi children aged between six and 59 months" suffer "from chronic malnutrition" while the figure for those suffering from "actue malnutrition" is estimated to be 300,000. You didn't discover that in this morning's New York Times, but viewers of Austalia's ABC could see David Singh interviewed on The World Today.

On another Iraqi story that the mainstream media in the United States hasn't shown interest in, Jake Kovco's family (Lorriane and David Small, parents of Jake's wife Shelley Kovco) and the family of Juso Sinanovic (Jasmina Sinanovic -- daughter of Juso) spoke via "community station Radio RPH" reports the AAP which also notes that Mick Martin has "established an appeal for . . . [Jake Kovco's] widow Shelley to supplement what he says is her meagre Australian Defence Force pension."

Today has been a confusing one for the family of Naji al Noaimi -- diplomat with the United Arab Emirates who was kidnapped Tuesday in Baghdad. But he has been released.

In Baghdad today, as CBS and the AP note, a gun fight between resistance and police officers led to the deaths of at least five and the wounded of at least eight. Roadside bombs continued exploding. One resulted in the wounding of three Iraqis, Reuters noted. AP reported on a roadside bomb apparently intended for a police officer who was not at his home -- but his wife and two children were and both were wounded in the explosion. Another roadside bomb resulted in at least one US soldier being wounded when it went off near a convoy.

The Associated Press notes the discovery of four corpses in Baghdad ("bullet-ridden"; "kidnapped and tortured") offering a potential identification of one as the elementary school teacher who was kidnapped.

Six miles out of Kirkuk, police discovered a coprse ("gunshot wounds"; "bearing signs of torture) while in Kirkuk "Mohammed al-Iqabi, an employee of the northern state-oil company, was gunned down" Reuters reports. CNN reports that "U.S. military commanders have decided to send more U.S. troops to the Iraqi city of Ramadi" where the 'pacification' has not taken. The Associated Press notes that "more than 30 shops in a market in Diwaniyah" have been targeted and burned by arsonists.

KUNA notes that Bully Boy was on US television this morning (NBC's Today) and continues to blame his low approval ratings on the Iraq war but he thinks he'll rebound noting, "I have got two and a half years left to be president of the United States and I intend to get a lot done" -- barring, of course, impeachment or prolonged vacations.

Finally, in England, Helene Mullholland reports that an investigation will start again in to the death of David Kelly. Kelly was the scientist who was at least one source for a 2003 report by the BBC that the Tony Blair government "sexed up" the intelligence to sell the case for war. Angry denials from the ruling party led to what some would call a witch hunt. During the witch hunt, Kelly was identified as a source. Shortly afterward, he died (July 18, 2003) and, though his death had been officially ruled a suicide, questions have remained.

Highlights quickly. Two on Guantanamo, one on the paper of record. First up, Guantanamo.
Cindy notes Carol J. Williams' "4 Guantanamo Prisoners Attempt Suicide in One Day" (Los Angeles Times via Common Dreams):

Four terrorism suspects at the sprawling prison network here attempted suicide Thursday, and detainees at a camp for the most compliant prisoners attacked guards with improvised weapons when the guards tried to rescue a man attempting to hang himself, a spokesman for the U.S. military-run prison said.
The disturbance at Camp 4, a communal facility housing 175 prisoners, followed three overdose attempts earlier in the day at Camp 1, where about 180 detainees live in metal mesh cages.
Those involved in the disturbance were moved to maximum-security confinement, said Navy Cmdr. Robert Durand, public affairs director for the prison and interrogation network.
Neither the identities nor the nationalities of the prisoners were disclosed.
"When the guard force entered the [Camp 4] compound to intervene and save the life of the detainee, some detainees attempted to prevent them from rescuing the detainee by using fans, light fixtures and other items as improvised weapons," Durand said.

As that horrible news comes out, Eddie notes Sam Cage's "UN: US Should Close Gitmo Facility" (Associated Press via Truth Out):

Geneva - The United States should close its prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and avoid using secret detention facilities in its war on terror, a U.N. panel report released Friday said.
In an 11-page report on its review of US adherence to the Treaty Against Torture, the committee said detainees should not be returned to any state where they could face a "real risk" of being tortured.
"The state party should cease to detain any person at Guantanamo Bay and close the detention facility," said the U.N. Committee Against Torture, a panel of 10 independent experts on adherence to the U.N. Convention Against Torture.
The United States should also ensure that no one is detained in secret detention facilities under its control and disclose the existence of any such places, the report said.
The committee said it was concerned that detainees were being held for protracted periods with insufficient legal safeguards and without judicial assessment of the justification for their detention.
The committee was also concerned about allegations that the United States has established secret prisons, where the international Red Cross does not have access to the detainees.

Now it's time to focus on the Times. Martha notes Rory O'Connor and William Scott Malone's "The (Other) Story Judith Miller Didn't Write" (Media is a Plural,

On October 12, 2000, the guided missile destroyer USS Cole pulled into harbor for refueling in Aden, Yemen. Less than two hours later, suicide bombers Ibrahim al-Thawr and Abdullah al-Misawa approached the ship’s port side in a small inflatable craft laden with explosives and blew a 40-by-40-foot gash in it, killing seventeen sailors and injuring thirty-nine others.
The attack on the Cole, organized and carried out by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist group, was a seminal but still murky and largely misunderstood event in America's ongoing "Long War." Two weeks prior, military analysts associated with an experimental intelligence program known as ABLE DANGER had warned top officials of the existence of an active Al Qaeda cell in Aden, Yemen. And two days before the attack, they had conveyed "actionable intelligence" of possible terrorist activity in and around the port of Aden to General Pete Schoomaker, then Commander in Chief of the United States Special Operation Command (SOCOM). The same information was also conveyed to a top intelligence officer at the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), headed by the newly appointed General Tommy Franks. As CENTCOM commander, Franks oversaw all US Armed Forces operations in a twenty five-country region that included Yemen, as well as the Fifth Fleet to which the Cole was tasked.
It remains unclear what action, if any, top officials at SOCOM and CENTCOM took in response to the ABLE DANGER warnings about planned Al Qaeda activities in Aden harbor. None of the officials involved has ever spoken about the pre-attack warnings, and a post-attack forensic analysis of the episode remains highly classified and off-limits within the bowels of the Pentagon. Subsequent investigations exonerated the Cole’s commander, Kirk Lippold, but Lippold’s career has been ruined nonetheless. He remains in legal and professional limbo, with a recommended promotion and new command held up for the past four years by political concerns and maneuvering.
Meanwhile, no disciplinary action was ever taken against any SOCOM or CENTCOM officials. General Schoomaker was later promoted out of retirement to Chief of Staff, United States Army, and General Franks went on to lead the combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Enter Judith Miller, the Pulitzer Prize-winning ex-New York Times reporter at the center of the ongoing perjury and obstruction of justice case involving former top White House official I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby. Miller spent eighty-five days in jail before finally disclosing that Libby was the anonymous source who confirmed to her that Valerie Plame was a CIA official, although Miller never wrote a story about Plame. Now, in an exclusive interview, Miller tells the details of how the attack on the Cole spurred her reporting on Al Qaeda and led her, in July 2001, to a still-anonymous top-level White House source, who shared top-secret NSA signals intelligence (SIGINT) concerning an even bigger impending Al Qaeda attack, perhaps to be visited on the continental United States. Ultimately, however, Miller never wrote that story either. But two months later --on September 11 -- Miller and her editor at the Times, Stephen Engelberg, another Pulitzer Prize winner, both remembered and regretted the story they "didn't do."

Read more for what the Times didn't cover. Thanks to two friends who worked overtime on dictation and more to help get this entry pulled together. The e-mail address for this site is

Other Items

Sorry. I'm trying to get out of DC today. A number of friends ended up dropping by to say hello and it was just too crowded and too noisy to get an entry completed (especially when I'm already attempting to censor the language -- work safe environment here -- and deal with the ___ that is this morning's New York Times).

An AP article covers the Arlen Specter dramatics yesterday. Because it's really important that the Times uses all it can to push for Michael Hayden -- their best chatty Cathys the paper's ever had. Said two reporters yesterday, when Hayden was testifying, "Who is he to talk about leaks?" General consensus is it was more than modesty that had him refusing to commit to the Times' Sunday pucker up.

For the Specter high drama, check out Wally's "THIS JUST IN! DESPERATE CONGRESS MEMBERS!" Which says all that could be said on the issue. Another story I'm not seeing in the paper (it's spread out all over, the paper -- so it may be in there and I'm just missing it) is Pat Robertson announcing his little chat. Rebecca covers that with "rebecca winters has a warning."

The paper has no interest in that or in exploring what Military Man heading the CIA might mean -- remember what Barbara Olshansky noted Tuesday on KPFA's The Morning Show:

One of the things that I think is underling this type of authorization [. . .] is this notion that this presidency has, that this administration has, that the commander-in-chief powers which are supposed to be used outside the United States in a zone of miltary hostility . This president says, we can turn that power inside, into the United States, into the domestic, civilian, civil society and use that power here. And that underlies everything that this president is doing. . . What's really troubling is when you think that we're now going to appoint military people to fundamentally civilian posts. It adds even more structure to that idea that we can operate militarily inside the United States. That's something that [. . .] in the history of this country we have never abided. It's something the Framers, way back, were concerned about and it's something the courts have been really clear about and yet that is what this administration is completely -- using the military powers inside the United States to justify all of these violations.

Instead, we get coverage that's practically a death pageant. When you are the Les Newman of the security set (WKRP), you really need your friends in the press for the big market push. Fortunately, Newman, er Hayden, is in a position to call in favors.

It probably helps when the "new guy" is someone who's close to the Pentagon. In that and every other way his "bonafides" have been spoken for. Which is why the worst writing has repeatedly appeared in the paper, prominently under his byline.

As The Nation's latest editorial, "Phone Spies," points out:

The Administration would seem to be violating the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable government searches and seizures. There is also the matter of its disregard of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires the government to obtain a warrant for electronic surveillance. By any measure Congress has sufficient grounds not just to investigate but to aggressively challenge the Administration's actions. After ABC News reported that the FBI has acknowledged reviewing phone records of reporters for that network and other outlets as part of an effort to identify whistleblowers, Congress also has a responsibility to demand information about just how much spying is taking place. So far, however, Congress is speaking loudly but carrying a small stick. Republican Senate Judiciary Committee chair Arlen Specter complains that "there has been no meaningful Congressional oversight on this program," but where are the subpoenas from his committee to the officials engaged in these activities? Specter says he wants to ask phone company executives about what records they turned over to the NSA and why. But the senator has to know that the fundamental questions can only be answered by an investigation of an Administration that cannot be allowed to plead executive privilege. Democrats also have to get over their timidity. Isn't it time, for instance, for its leaders to acknowledge that Democratic Senator Russ Feingold was right when he proposed in March that Bush be censured for ordering the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans' phone conversations without obtaining proper warrants?

Beau steered us to that editorial, by the way. In all the "We love Hayden!" coverage, the paper of a questionable record somehow missed Siobhan Gorman's "NSA rejected system that sifted phone data legally" (Baltimore Sun):

The National Security Agency developed a pilot program in the late 1990s that would have enabled it to gather and analyze huge amounts of communications data without running afoul of privacy laws. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, it shelved the project -- not because it failed to work but because of bureaucratic infighting and a sudden White House expansion of the agency's surveillance powers, according to several intelligence officials.

Polly wanted us to note something. This is a very brief thing so the excerpt is very small. From Lia Nicholls's "Donovan: The 5-Minute Interview" (Independent of London):

Donovan, 60, is appearing tonight and tomorrow night at the Jazz Café in London, supported by his daughter, Astrella Celeste. The concerts mark the launch of the paperback version of his autobiography 'The Hurdy Gurdy Man' and the release of a rare set of recordings on EMI 'Donovan - In Concert'.
If I wasn't talking to you right now I'd be ...
Reviewing songs for our performances.

So members in and around London, if you'ver got the time and the money, it's Donovan. And it's only "tonight" being Friday. Article was published yesterday. We use the song he made famous in entries here all the time ("And The War Drags On" -- written by Mick Softly). There will be a write up of the concert in Polly's Brew which goes out Sunday.

Check out Cedric's "Dry Drunk Bully Boy" and Mike's "Surprise interview" (FYI, I'm the surprise interview).

The e-mail address for this site is

NYT: Tavernise notes the Iraqi middle class flight

Deaths run like water through the life of the Bahjat family. Four neighbors. A barber. Three grocers. Two men who ran a currency exchange shop.
But when six armed men stormed into their sons' primary school this month, shot a guard dead, and left fliers ordering it to close, Assad Bahjat knew it was time to leave.
[. . .]
In the latest indication of the crushing hardships weighing on the lives of Iraqis, increasing portions of the middle class seem to be doing everything they can to leave the country. In the last 10 months, the state has issued new passports to 1.85 million Iraqis, 7 percent of the population and a quarter of the country's estimated middle class.

The above is from Sabrina Tavernise's "As Death Stalks Iraq, Middle-Class Exodus Begins" in this morning's New York Times. And why wouldn't it happen? Think of Iraq as New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hits. Those abel to leave, those fortunate enough will. CODEPINK sponsored a speaking tour of Iraqis and you heard this tale over and over. There is no safety under the occupation.

As a highlight makes clear. Martha notes Ellen Knickmeyer and Saad Sarhan's "Iraqi Leader Acts To Defuse Shiite Rivalry in Basra: Dozens Killed in Violence Across Country" (Washington Post):

Violence in the south Thursday included a bombing at the home of Basra's police chief. In Najaf, another major city in the Shiite-dominated region, the head of local militias loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr was shot dead by police allied with a rival Shiite party.
Political violence across Iraq killed at least two dozen Iraqis. Four U.S. soldiers and their Iraqi interpreter were killed when their patrol hit a roadside bomb northwest of Baghdad, and the U.S. military reported the death Wednesday of an American sailor in the western province of Anbar.
The deaths brought the number of U.S. fatalities in May to about 50, a pace that threatens to make this month one of the deadliest this year for American forces in Iraq.

[. . .]
In Najaf, meanwhile, police shot dead Abbas al-Chillabi, commander of the local regiments of the Mahdi Army militia. An official with Sadr's organization, Sahib al-Amiry, said police shot Chillabi in the head at a checkpoint, and he called it a deliberate political killing.
The Najaf police chief, Brig. Gen. Abbas Moadal, called the shooting an accident. Police at the checkpoint had believed they were under attack when a wedding party that apparently included Chillabi approached the checkpoint, firing shots into the air in celebration, the police chief said.

And that's it. There are too many people here this morning. I'm hoping to get out of DC fairly quickly. If things calm down here, I'll do another Times entry. If not, all you're missing is the paper of record pushing their source -- the Les Nesman of the NSA. Repeatedly.

Democracy Now! today will spend the hour with Eduardo Galeano. Remember that Sunday there is a Democracy Now! event:

Special Democracy Now! Benefit in NYC
Sunday, May 21, 2006 7:00 pm
An Evening of Readings and Conversation withEDUARDO GALEANO and ARUNDHATI ROY
Sunday, May 21, 2006
7:00 pm
The Town Hall
123 West 43rd Street, New York
Between 6th Avenue & BroadwayDoors open at 6:15 pm --Reserved seating in front of house, $100 per seat all proceeds got to support Democracy Now! Tickets are very limited.TO order, call 1-888-999-6761 -- at prompt, hit option 0 (zero). Credit card orders only.
Eduardo Galeano, one of Latin America's most admired writers, and Arundhati Roy, who won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her first novel, The God of Small Things, in an evening of readings and conversation. Galeano and Roy are both recipients of the Lannan Foundation Prize for Cultural Freedom, in 1998 and 2002 respectively. Voices of Time: A Life in Stories (Metropolitan Books) is Galeano's latest book and he is also the author of the Memory of Fire trilogy (for which he won the 1989 American Book Award) and Open Veins of Latin America. He lives in Montevideo, Uruguay. In addition to her novel, Roy has also published several collections of essays, including Power Politics, War Talk and most recently, An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire. She lives in New Delhi, India.Pre-signed copies of books by Eduardo Galeano, including his new book, Voices of Time: A Life in Stories (Metropolitan Books 2006), and by Arundhati Roy, including An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire (South End Press 2004), will be available at The Town Hall before and after the event.

The e-mail address for this site is

Thursday, May 18, 2006

And the war drags on . . . (Indymedia Roundup)

As he pursues his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, Senator John McCain is appearing at a series of university graduations. His speech, unveiled last Saturday at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, calls for "winning" the war in Iraq, a feat he deems necessary to the security of the world and in keeping with American "interests and values."

FRIDAY, MAY 19, 2006
1:30 pm
As he pursues his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, Senator John McCain is appearing at a series of university graduations. His speech, unveiled last Saturday at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, calls for "winning" the war in Iraq, a feat he deems necessary to the security of the world and in keeping with American "interests and values." On Friday, May 19, he will deliver this speech at the New School's 70th annual commencement at the invitation of President Bob Kerrey. President Kerrey has also been a supporter of the war, and in 2002 helped promote the U.S. invasion through his membership in the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Kerrey has disregarded a letter from the University Student Senate calling on him to withdraw the speaking invitation, as well as a petition to that effect with over a thousand signatures by New School faculty, students, and staff. New School activists will protest outside the ceremony and invite the support of the local anti-war movement. Signs stressing "books not bombs" and other pro-education, anti-war messages are especially welcome.

The above, noted by Rachel, is from jwnyc's "Friday Emergency Demo! -- Protest McCain at New School Commencement" (NYC Indymedia). Rallies, protests, they do make a difference.
Take Oregon's highlight, William Hughes' "Code Pink Challenges White House" (Portland IMC):

Washington, D.C. - On Sunday, May 14, 2006, a colorful protest action, sponsored by "Code Pink: Women for Peace," was staged directly in front of the White House. It included a mini-parade, a sing along and plenty of roses waving around. The event, a 24-hour vigil, began the day before. Its theme was "Declare Peace on Mother's Day."
On a warm, but cloudy afternoon, it featured speeches, from 2 to 4 PM, by activists, like: Cindy Sheehan, a leader in the "Gold Star Families for Peace; and Susan Sarandon, a member of the Screen Actors Guild and a celebrated film actress.
Sheehan said that this Mother's Day has been wonderful, but "very emotional for her." She related how a soldier came up to her earlier and gave "her an orchid as a present." Sheehan continued that Casey (her son who was killed in Iraq) had "brought all of us together" and had given her "so many gifts." She added that the activist community is "making a difference" and that the day will come when the Bush-Cheney Administration "will be held accountable and that we will bring the troops home."
One of the campaigns that Code Pink, a national organization, has launched is to get the junior Democratic Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton, "to listen."
(1) She's a pro-Iraqi War Lite in the image and likeness of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). Code Pink activists are pushing her to sign on to a Resolution calling for bringing all the troops home, now. Clinton continues to vote to fund the war, which was initiated by the Bush-Cheney Gang based on damnable lies.
(2) In essence, pseudo-liberal politicos, such as Clinton and Kerry have acted as accomplices of the Bush-Cheney Gang. As of today, 2,439 brave American military personnel have died in the war, another 17,869 have been wounded. The cost of the conflict is now put at $280.8 billion, while Iraq, a country of 27 million, lies mostly in ruins, and its death toll may exceed 100,000. (3) Reading an "Open Letter" to First Lady, Laura Bush, Sarandon mocked President George W. Bush as a warmonger and derided him for calling himself, "The Decider!" She reminded Laura that Americans really "don't want their kids to go off to war and die."

Sing the song.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.

-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Thursday, the American fatality count stood at 2432. Right now? 2454. That's the number of American military lives lost in Bully Boy's illegal war of choice that he lied us into. To, again, note ER, Parminder Nagra's Dr. Neela Rasgotra attended the funeral of her husband Michael, a doctor serving in Iraq. As Michael's father puffed out his chest and talked to some men (of course) about the "kind of boy I raised," the "mindset of a warrior" and sharing stories of Sitting Bull telling people "this it was a good day to die," Neela walked over, shoved Michael's medals at him and refused to take them back.

She informed him that, "To me all they mean is death [. . .] How dare you, how dare you stand there and say that. 'A good day to die'? [. . .] You could have kept him here. You could have saved him. But instead you made him want to go back. For what? Because there was something 'noble' in it? Why did you do that when it would have been just as easy to convince him to stay for a much better reason? Because we loved him. Because we loved him."

A powerful moment and one that addresses the cost of war beyond dollars and cents. But don't expect it to be noted. This has been an ongoing story on ER as Neela has been vocal about being against the war. That's not been noted. It wasn't noted in the episode when she was informed Michael died. There's always some White Male to praise week after week. Usually doing a funny. Maybe that's a little easier to relate to?

It's not like they don't watch ER -- Noah Wylie's return and cause was noted -- but then Noah Wylie is a White Male. As, week in and week out, we can giggle at a comic or get excited by a Saturday Night Live skit or bluster about a speech in a courtroom on the Patriot Act, we never can find the time to note this ongoing storyline that's provided many powerful moments. Maybe that's it? Maybe it's easier to look away at the pain that's on the screen. It's a character Nagra's playing. She's doing a powerful job. Maybe we just don't want to note it because it's too powerful. I don't know if John Kerry's going to be on Mad TV this week, but, if so, I'm sure it will suck up all the discussion online.

Bully Boy hides the dead. I have no idea why we choose to hide the fictional dead. But ER's tackled the war. They should receive credit for that. The writing and Nagra's performance should receive nominations (should receive Emmys) but is anyone talking about it? In the way they linked to a stand up routine? In the way they linked to a skit? In the way they noted a lawyer try to win a case by delivering a speech?

If we can't even note a fictional portrayal of the costs of war, I have to wonder what that says?
But maybe it just does come down to the fact that Nagra isn't White and isn't Male? If we can't note the costs in fiction, how will we ever note them in reality? Marcia has an article on some of the physical costs to those returning wounded. From Michael de Yoanna's "Eight of 10 need help: Military accused of turning blind eye to PTSD victims" (Colorado Springs Indy):

Eight of 10 active-duty troops likely suffering from combat stress upon returning from Iraq or Afghanistan never received a referral for further mental assistance.
That finding was included in a scathing report released last week by the Government Accountability Office that said the Department of Defense "cannot reasonably assure that service members who need referrals receive them."
The federal investigative arm of Congress reports that about 5 percent -- 9,145 of the 178,664 active Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine troops that served in Iraq or Afghanistan between October 2001 and September 2004 -- were at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Yet just 22 percent of troops who showed an indication on questionnaires that they were at risk for PTSD received a referral for a mental health follow-up.
"It's disgusting," says Georg-Andreas Pogany, who runs Operation JUST ONE, a Colorado Springs mental health initiative that advocates for troops returning from Iraq to get proper access to mental care. "It shows the majority of those who need help aren't getting it when they need it."
PTSD is a severe mental condition that affects soldiers, as well as other individuals who suffer from trauma. The condition can lead to domestic violence, substance abuse and suicide. Treatment, many experts say, can be effective in lowering the incidence of such problems.
The Army has the largest number of troops at risk for PTSD: 7,935 across the nation, according to the report.

While some return wounded, others try to wound those who spoke out. Megan notes
Eli Sanders' "The War on Jim McDermott" (Seattle Stranger):

It is spring in Washington, D.C., the air already hinting at the sticky summer humidity to come. Around the Congressional office buildings, aides scurry about in newly dusted-off seersucker. And in a crosswalk on Independence Avenue, Seattle's long-serving Democratic Congressman, Jim McDermott, is hurrying toward a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.
He is wearing, as he often does, his "Save the Children" tie, red and printed with rows of happy multicultural kids holding hands, an almost too-perfect accoutrement for the man widely regarded, and reviled, as one of the most liberal members of Congress. Over his nine consecutive terms representing Seattle's ultraprogressive 7th District, McDermott has used the platform of his safe seat to become a national voice of the uncompromising left--the guy Michael Moore turned to for quotes about Republican fear-mongering in Fahrenheit 9/11, the guy who flew to Baghdad in 2002 and predicted that President Bush would "mislead the American public" into war. His outspokenness, particularly about the war, has made him a popular national figure among Democrats.
It's also made him a lot of enemies.
Across Independence Avenue, and now on the Capitol grounds, McDermott, the son of a fundamentalist minister, passes a large cluster of kids who have arrived in D.C. for National Prayer Day. Now a quietly religious Episcopalian, McDermott makes no comment as he walks by. ("My father and I, we came to terms with one another," he tells me later. "I went my way, and he went his.")
Past the kids, past the white marble columns of the Capitol Building, past the security checkpoints, and now on the lush blue carpet of the House floor, McDermott casts his vote: "No." Across the aisle, the man who has tethered McDermott to a politically hobbling and financially draining court fight for the past eight years, Republican Congressman John Boehner of Ohio, casts his vote: "Yes."

Has the hideous NPR gasbag posing as a reporter and Fox "News" talker apologized, on air, to McDermott? Admitted that she was wrong and he was right? No. Liar-Liasson hasn't. And she continues to offer her "insight" on Fox "News." Long after she should have been fired by NPR.

Maybe she can go after John Murtha next? Stan notes Drew Brown's "Pentagon Report Said to Find Killing of Iraqi Civilians Deliberate" (Knight Ridder via Common Dreams):

WASHINGTON - A Pentagon report on an incident in which U.S. Marines shot and killed more than a dozen Iraqi civilians last November will show that those killings were deliberate and worse than initially reported, a Pennsylvania congressman said Wednesday.
"There was no firefight. There was no IED (improvised explosive device) that killed those innocent people," Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said during a news conference on Iraq. "Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them. And they killed innocent civilians in cold blood. That is what the report is going to tell."
Murtha's comments were the first on-the-record remarks by a U.S. official characterizing the findings of military investigators looking into the Nov. 19 incident. Murtha, the ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations subcommittee and an opponent of Bush administration policy in Iraq, said he hadn't read the report but had learned about its findings from military commanders and other sources.
Military public affairs officers said the investigation isn't completed and declined to provide further information. "There is an ongoing investigation," said Lt. Col. Sean Gibson, a Marine spokesman at Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla. "Any comment at this time would be inappropriate."
Both Gibson and Pentagon spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin said that the military has yet to decide what, if any action, might be taken against Marines involved in the incident.

Is that something we should turn our eyes from as well?

Brenda notes this update on an story we've been following, "Statement from Carol Fisher" (Cleveland Indy Media Center):

Let's get an assessment of what happened and where we go from here. The first thing I want to say is: "The World Can’t Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime!" And the reason why I'm saying that is because above all that is really what’s at issue here. Everything about this case and everything that happened from the moment I put those Bush Step Down posters up on the telephone poles and was assaulted by the police has all been about trying to intimidate people who are opposing this regime and doing whatever they can to step up in their way and turn this shit around and create a different future.
So we waged a hell of a battle to get to this point and its been incredibly inspiring from day one, because people were so outraged to see that this kind of thing can happen for the smallest example of someone speaking out against the Bush regime. And from there, I have determined and done all I could to steel myself to take a firm stand and refuse to apologize for anything and to say "I did nothing wrong--those police assaulted me".
In spite of all the slander, all the lies from the police, in spite of a trial that was filled with unbelievable bizarre stories from the police about all the things that I did to these cops when in fact the only hard evidence of any injury at all [to them] was three tiny little marks on one cop's hand. And this is the truth that I am telling you here. Sometimes it's hard to even believe that things have gotten to this point around this.
As opposed to what the cops' injuries were, my arms were bruised up and down, I had scrapes on my face, I was wounded on my mouth and not only that, humiliated in the hospital, being forced to undress in front of four male police officers, and then again humiliated and attacked over and over again, not only in the media, but also in the trial itself, where in the cross-examination, it was more of an interrogation that lasted two hours, where the prosecution was trying to trap me, and trying to make me lose my temper, and make me fit their profile of a crazy woman. And they didn’t get over with that.
In fact I think the trial itself was a real exposure of how desperately they are trying to whip up a very ridiculous and very conflicting story about what happened that day to cover over the fact that these cops have in general an intimidating attitude toward anybody who raises questions and that this particular cop had vengeance against me because of my anti-Bush stand, and they don't want people to know that he actually did arrest me unlawfully. [And they are trying to cover over the truth that this case is highly political, it has everything to do with trying to suppress the movement to drive out the Bush regime] That's the facts, very basically.

Brad found an article about Cindy Sheehan and we'll close with that. From Sarah Barry's "Sheehan voices anti-war message: 'Peace Mom' holds out hope for withdrawal from Iraq" (Daily Progress):

Cindy Sheehan has the soft, soothing voice of a mother. She has a gentle humor about her and she is generous with her hugs.
But Sheehan also has a message. Since her son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq in April 2004, Sheehan has been campaigning for peace and an end to the Iraq War. In August 2005, she camped outside President Bush’s home in Crawford, Texas, asking why America’s sons and daughters were fighting in Iraq.
Wednesday night, Sheehan brought her message to Charlottesville. Reminiscing about her time in Crawford, Sheehan told an audience at the Martin Luther King Jr. Performing Arts Center that she remembered thinking, "This is the beginning of the end of the occupation of Iraq."
Sheehan's speech included both humorous anecdotes about her experiences speaking around the country and the world and heartbreaking personal information about her son.

This is a weak entry, not due to highlights but due to me being so tired. Don't expect much tomorrow morning either. Be sure to read the gina & krista round-robin tomorrow, they've got many things that will have you nodding. The e-mail address for this site is