Friday, March 10, 2006

Guantanamo, Spying and why it's important to get the word out

Good evening. What day is it? Come on, you know it's worth a smile! Friday! End of the week at last. :D Democracy Now! wrapped up a powerful week from London, hope you made a point to check it out. Let's get it started with Democracy Now!

250 Doctors Condemn U.S. Treatment of Prisoners at Guantanamo
More than 250 medical experts have co-signed a letter condemning the United States for force-feeding prisoners on hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The letter appears in the British medical journal The Lancet. The doctors wrote "We urge the US government to ensure that detainees are assessed by independent physicians and that techniques such as force-feeding and restraint chairs are abandoned." The doctors also said the American Medical Association should instigate disciplinary proceedings against any members known to have violated ethical codes while working at Guantanamo.

The New York Times wanted to call this "tough measures." It's torture. And it's a shame for our country that our own medical profession isn't leading on this. On Democracy Now! today, Amy Goodman interviewed a former member of England's Parliment, Tony Benn, and he said they were hostages. I agree with that.

Civil Liberties Groups Seek Court to Shutdown NSA Spy Program
Two civil liberties groups asked the federal courts on Thursday to force the Bush administration to end its warrantless domestic spying program because it violates the privacy and free speech rights of US citizens. The requests from the Center for Constitutional Rights and American Civil Liberties Union came just days after Republicans blocked a Senate investigation into the National Security Agency spy program. ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said "In America, no one is above the law, not even the president. The president's allies in Congress are preparing to cover up his illegal program, while others in Congress are standing on the sidelines. When the President breaks the law, Congress should not be giving him a get-out-of-jail free card."

How about that Center for Constitutional Rights? Aren't they doing a great job? They just put out Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush. That's a great book and it should be required reading for everybody. I'll give credit to Democracy Now!, C.I. and Ruth for making me aware of them because I really wasn't. I don't just mean before I started this site. Even as late as October, I wasn't really aware of them. I think that's a great example of the power in highlighting left voices. All three of them, highlighted people like Michael Ratner, Barbara Olshansky and the Center itself. By constantly noting them, I slowly picked up on them and I bet I'm not alone in that. You can't just bring up someone one time and expect that everyone goes, "Oh, Michael Ratner" or whatever.

Think about the "pundidiots" of the mainstream media, the ones you see jaw boning everywhere. I don't like Cokie Roberts but it's hard not to know who she is because she's on TV, radio and everywhere else. You can try to escape her, but you can't. Repetition is how her name is known.

And that's why it bothers a lot of people, including me, when our left outlets are hawking some AEI gas bag or Howard Fineman or some other right winger or centrist. If our left outlets, radio, TV, print, web, aren't getting the word out on our left voices, who will?

If we're going to change anything in this instant where anyone can have a voice (due to online access), it's not going to change anything if we're always going to the mainstream. C.I.'s typed "God forbid another 9/11 happens, but if it does, you'll need to be able to know the voices that speak for you." Something like that. And the point C.I.'s making is that dissent was the norm after 9/11 and if the voices that can speak to us weren't shut out of the process, how might things have been handled differently?

That's why C.I. always says The Common Ills is a "resource/review" and not a "blog." It's about noting the voices that are out there. And maybe a member loves Ms. G and another member doesn't but loves Mr. L -- if they're both tossing them out there, then other members can see if they identify with those voices.

There's a whole range of left voices that have been left out of the debate. They do exist. But if you don't know about them, C.I. points out, you can feel like you're the only one who feels that way. Knowing that you aren't alone can be empowering.

And like Ruth. Is anyone not on Pacifica or one of of it's affiliates highlighting it the way Ruth does? I can go online and find NPR here, there and everywhere. Usually a lot of faux lefties praising it. But do you hear about Pacifica?

You should. You should know that they are out there. Even if you don't listen or you can't listen, you should know that they're out there. It matters on how you see the world around you and they matter.

I remember when I found The Common Ills because it was just a big moment. There weren't a lot of people right after the election still talking about the war. Most were "moving on." That's not fair. There were a lot of voices. But you didn't hear about them from the sites and people you would hope to hear about them from. It's like it was "Oh we lost the election, we've got to win in 2006, so let's talk about religion and values and let's talk about this and everything but the war."

I was "Michael," by the way, at The Common Ills then. "Mike" was already a member. So I was "Michael." Then I started this site and everybody started calling me "Mike" in the community. C.I. was still calling me "Michael" because there was already a "Mike" but then "Mike" was cool enough to swap with me.

But I'd read about someone I hadn't heard of and I'd think "Cool." Then they'd show up again later and I'd start to slowly get to know the name. I like all the voices that members highlight but I do have my favorites that speak to me. And if I was just watching ABC and going to the usual websites, I would've missed out on them.

My parents are news junkies and they knew about Democracy Now! and watched but it wasn't until I was a member of The Common Ills community and seeing it noted every day that I started thinking, "Dude, I gotta check this out." That's how it works. And like Ruth has been getting the word out on a lot of shows but one of them is Law & Disorder. Monday, Nina listened just because Ruth keeps highlighting them and the highlights have made her interested.
She listened Monday and she loves the show. She's going to record it for me next week, I'm at work when it's on, and she never would have listened if Ruth hadn't been promoting it.

So, my point here, is we do have left voices. But people who say they are left aren't always doing their part to get the word out on them. I don't need talking points, I need voices making arguments and you don't get that a lot online. You get a lot of people who seem to be wanting to be "players" or prove they're mainstream by highlighting just that. If we're going to pull the country back from the rightward tilt that the mainstream is pushing us toward, we're going to need left voices, not centrists passing for left. That's people like Arundhati Roy and Laura Flanders and Danny Schechter and Margaret Kimberley and more. Joe Klein's not going to change anything.

Now here's a voice I love and it's one I try to highlight as often as I can remember, the great Dave Zirin's latest, "Lynching Barry Bonds:"

"If he did it, hang him!" This is what ESPN radio host John Seibel (filling in on the Dan Patrick show) said about Barry Bonds. Is Seibel oblivious that some may take offense to the image of a controversial Black athlete being lynched, or is this just red meat thrown to the worst impulses of his audience? It would be one thing if Seibel was the exception, but the media is in an orgiastic frenzy, lustily tearing Bonds apart and eating him alive. Sports Illustrated this week released excerpts of a new book Game of Shadows, which maps out in painstaking detail the copious steroids that Bonds has allegedly consumed. Prominent columnists are calling for his head on a spit. This is painfully predictable payback executed by a media that Bonds has skewered throughout his career. Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly, for example, said that he would like to talk to Bonds but "He would probably just tell me to cure cancer or something."
I have always made my feelings clear on this issue and they are unchanged: Barry Bonds is the greatest baseball player since Babe Ruth. He is the only player in history to have 500 home runs and 500 stolen bases. He averaged a 30/30 (30 home runs and 30 stolen bases) for the entire decade of the 1990s, and he is the only player I've ever seen who can change the game with every swing. I also am partial to Bonds because I actually LIKE when he tells someone to "go cure cancer." I like that he asked congress why they were talking about steroids when people still don't have heat or clean water in New Orleans. Is it
self-serving? Sure, but no more self-serving than the writers who sell papers by assessing the size of his body parts like he's some sort of beast. As for whether or not he took steroids, I still believe in something that may seem quaint in Bush's America called the presumption of innocence. But if it is actually proven that he took steroids, then I think its not Bonds that should be on trial -- in the court of public opinion or elsewhere -- but Major League Baseball.

In all the scolding coverage over steroids, you don't hear a lot of talk about the owners or the League itself. You have to find a real left voice, like Zirin, to take on that aspect. We need voices like Zirin and they're out there. But if we don't know they're out there, we'll watch ESPN or the local sports show or read the sports section and just think, "Yep, those bad baseball players on steroids." If a player is on steroids or suspected of it, you better believe the owners are suspecting it too. But they're focusing on how much money they can squeeze out of the player.
What's their guilt in all of this? You won't hear those kind of questions from your mainstream sources.

C.I. doesn't expect that most members ever click on links, they just read the excerpts. That's cool. Know who's out there. Over time, you'll be able to tell Zirin or whomever just by reading the excerpt. And you'll find yourself saying, "Oh well David Zirin says . . ." Not "Romey says . . ." or whomever. That's a sea of change.

Democracy Now! is a great show and they could've thought, "Oh, Zirin, sports. We've got eight million other things to focus on now." But they didn't. They realized he was an important voice offering a left perspective and they put him on air for an hour. That's how I first heard him about and his book. That's the power we all have. We can do that in our own group of friends. That's my message for tonight.

By the way, Ruth asked us recently to all pick an episode of Democracy Now! that stood out to us:

Also on terrorism, Mike noted the interview with Jennifer Harbury, in July, about torture committed by the CIA.

From that same report by Ruth, I'm going to toss in Ma's section too:

Trina selected the interview with Camilo Mejia upon his release from jail because "I didn't see the [Boston] Globe rushing to interview him. The story matters but you get to a certain age and you learn what matters to the people and what matters to the corporate press are frequently two different things." Trina also added that, for her husband, she'd better note the broadcast of Jessica Lange's speech at the September rally in D.C. "We saw that, remember?" Trina reminded me. "In person, and he and Jim's father were like school boys while she was speaking. You would have thought they'd have it out of their systems but when it aired the following Monday, I heard all over again how smart and how beautiful Jessica Lange was. She is. You don't need to hear that from your husband repeatedly but for those who missed the speech, it was worth airing."

That made me laugh because when we were all in DC, you should have heard the dads go on and on about Jessica Lange. She is a very beautiful woman and she gave an amazing speech. But my dad, Jess's dad and Jim's dad were like ga-ga over her. They got teased so bad over that. :D

Now hop on over to Like Maria Said Paz and check out Elaine's thoughts. And have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

5 would impeach -- more coming?

Good evening. Democracy Now! still in London and in London tomorrow as well. Hope you're catching it. The show's always great but when they're on location in London, New Mexico, etc., they are able to cover events from those areas in real detail. I think there's been some really great stuff on this week and hope you haven't been missing it. Now here's some news from Democracy Now!

Five Vermont Towns Back Impeachment of Bush
In Vermont, five towns have approved measures calling for the impeachment of President Bush. The votes come at a time when the talk of impeachment is increasing. On Monday the Wall Street Journal ran a lengthy article pointing out how polls show there is greater support among the public for the impeachment of President Bush than there ever was for President Clinton. In 1998, polls showed 27 percent of the country backed the impeachment of Clinton if he lied about having a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Meanwhile a recent Zogby poll showed 51 percent of the country said Congress should consider impeaching Bush if he didn't tell truth about the reasons for the Iraq war.

Rebecca noted this election night and it was just one town when the early reporting was done on it. C.I. noted it when it was four. When it was all counted, it was five towns. Think about that.
Like the story notes, among us, the people, there is an interest in impeachment. It's just our elected officials and our media giants that don't want to talk about this issue. "Greater support . . . for the impeachment of" Bully Boy "than there ever was for President Clinton." On the ground, things are changing and have changed. I think this is a big news: 5 towns would impeach the Bully Boy. I hear a lot of talk about how things would change if the Democrats controlled at least one house and I'm not sure I buy that.

Elaine wrote this last night:

I'm really not pleased with Congress. I don't think the blame can just placed on the Republicans. Take the Patriot Act. There is no reason in the world that only Robert Byrd could stand by Russ Feingold. You had senators who weren't even up for re-election and they couldn't find the strength to take a stand?
Are they that weak or are they getting advice from some re-election committee? I have no idea but the Democratic Party has been a huge disappointment -- on the Patriot Act, on the spying, on the Supreme Court nominations, go down the list.

You really do have to wonder. For every John Conyers, Maxine Waters, Russ Feingold, you get a lot of people standing around with dopey expressions on their face and doing nothing.

These are really awful times for our country. We've got an illegal war in Iraq, we got the war in Afghanistan still going on, we got Bully Boy spying on the American people and you just start adding that up and all the scandals and wondering why the Democrats aren't doing anything with it?

Are they scared of how they'll look? Republicans don't worry too much about that. They'll lie, sure. But in terms of going after their opponent, they don't hedge their bets. Sam Parry had a thing about the Democrat's response or lack of it that C.I. noted this week.

I was talking to Ma about this (and Dad too but Ma's got her own site so let me plug Trina's Kitchen) and she said right now it seems like the Democrats have the best chance of winning in November but that she felt that way in 2004 when John Kerry was the candidate because she thought, "They won't be able to tar and feather him." But he let them tar and feather him. Or his campaign did. I'm not trying to slam him, he's one of my senators and he does a pretty good job in the Senate. But he was the military guy who spoke out against an immoral war so how could they slime him?

How? Because he didn't speak out against this war. The campaign tried to just focus on Vietnam and not what happened after. And because he didn't argue about what happened after, that let the right paint it as something bad and with him saying nothing, the impression may have stuck with others. He should have come out strong against the Iraq war and he should have talked about why he spoke out against the Vietnam war.

All Bully Boy had to offer was the war and Kerry trying to be like the Bully Boy just made him a pale imitation. If Democrats think they can win big in November by acting like the Republicans, they better not be surprised if they put up a close fight but end up losing. Democrats need to be Democrats. They need to fight and stand up. The people will support that.

Shiites Direct Ministry to Stop Counting Deaths Caused by Militias
Meanwhile the Washington Post is reporting the leading Shiite party in Iraq's governing coalition has directed the Health Ministry to stop tabulating execution-style shootings in order to minimize the number of casualties caused by Shiite militias and death squads. According to the paper, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, ordered government hospitals and morgues to continue cataloging deaths caused by bombings or clashes with insurgents, but not by execution-style shootings.

Who else is trying to be like the Bully Boy? The governing Shiites. Don't record deaths and they didn't happen. Hide the bodies from public sight and no one knows. That's not democracy but it is Bully Boy so he's exported his own denial and lies to Iraq.

Ron (Why Are We Back In Iraq?) has an article he wrote with John Byrne called "Washington nonprofit where Abramoff was director wrote articles favoring Abramoff clients"

The Washington nonprofit whose president appeared before a Senate committee as a victim of fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff's congressional bribery net wrote repeated articles that aligned with the positions of the lobbyist's clients, suggesting possible coordination between the lobbyist and the group in violation of federal law.
In a series of editorials between 1999 and 2001, National Center for Public Policy Research president Amy Ridenour went to bat for the Commonwealth of the Marianas Islands, a small U.S. territory in the Pacific. Her releases bemoaned efforts to expand federal immigration laws to the island, defended the islands' meager wages and attacked Clinton Administration attempts to tighten labor laws.
Ridenour also lent her support to the Western Pacific Economic Council, a trade group composed of Marianas garment manufacturers. Her group's name appeared in a Saipan newspaper backing the Council in 1999.

This reminds me a little of when the administration was paying Armstrong Williams and others to pimp their programs. This has that and sweat shop issues and someone acting innocent before the Senate so you should check it out if you haven't already.

I don't think Dad's ever asked me to note anything before but he did today. He pointed out that C.I.'s noting it and I said, "I've put it up" but Dad said he didn't think so. I know we all noted it at The Third Estate Sunday Review and I guess that's why I think I had noted it.
I'm swiping from C.I. by the way because C.I. has links in the announcement:

"MediaChannel, UFPJ and Partners Call For National Media Action"
The national day of local media protest announced last week on has received such a positive response that the organizers of United For Peace And Justice, the country's largest anti-war coalition, decided to change the date from March 21st to March 15th. The media protest will now kickoff this years week-long "spring offensive" against the war, just before the third anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq.Organizers were so excited about the prospect of bringing media activists and anti-war activists together, to challenge media outlets to tell the truth about the war and report on the anti-war movement, that they decided it should begin the week and not end it.
"The media helped make the war possible," charges UFPJ National Coordinator Leslie Cagan. "It's time to call for more coverage and better coverage."
The protests will also pay tribute to journalists and media workers killed in the line of fire, kidnapped, or jailed without charges. Most recently, on February 23rd an Al-Arabiya media team was gunned down in Iraq. We have to honor those who have lost their lives to get the story out. is taking the lead in reaching out to media and peace groups to encourage a series of media actions on March 15th."
All of us are media consumers," says MediaChannel editor Danny Schechter, "The News Dissector." "We can all take part by monitoring media coverage, writing letters and emails to media decision makers, and protesting against a pro-war media tilt in much of the coverage. If you have ever complained about the coverage, now's the time to do something by speaking up."

So what are you doing to take part in protesting the third anniversary of the illegal war? You gotta do something. You don't want to be one of the idiots playing "War Got Your Tongue?" do you? Three years, you should have an opinion by now and not be afraid to express it.

The only way the war will stop and the troops will come home is if we all start speaking out. Not just once, or twice, or three times. We gotta speak out and do it over and over.

My favorite prof stopped me on campus today and goes, "Tell C.I. incredible." What was he talking about? This morning's "NYT: 'G.O.P. Plan Would Allow Spying Without Warrants' (Shane and Kirkpatrick)." C.I.'s having nothing but problems with publishing The Common Ills. Hopefully, that's about to change (switched from monthly archives to weekly this morning) but it's been a pain in the butt. I tried to pass on my prof's compliment and C.I. was all, "Oh, there's nothing I've done that's worth praise this week. I'm sure he meant something someone highlighted." No, he meant your entry. And he was going on about how no one in the article C.I. was highlighting raised the issue of checks and balances and how the Senate was pulling the courts out of the equation. It's a great entry and you should check it out. Another thing you should check out is Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush. I finished it last night and Nina's reading it right now. You have to read that book. I was in such a rush to get to that book last night that I forgot to put a title on my post. :D

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Good evening. Let's get started with some stuff from Democracy Now! and remember that they are in London for the rest of the week.

Bush, GOP Sens. Reach Eavesdropping Agreement
On Capitol Hill, the Senate Intelligence Committee has voted down a proposal to investigate the Bush administration’s domestic spy program. The vote came after the White House and Republican Senators agreed to new guidelines for the practice of government eavesdropping without court-approved warrants. According to the New York Times, the deal asks the Bush administration to request court warrants only "whenever possible." The Bush administration would be given a 45 day grace period to spy without court warrants if they felt requesting them would compromise national security. After the 45-day period, the warrantless eavesdropping could then be extended if the attorney general certifies the administration's stance. In addition, a handful of extra members of Congress would also be briefed on the program’s activities. Democrats lashed out at the deal. West Virginia Senator John Rockefeller, who serves as vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee said: "The committee is, to put it bluntly, basically under the control of the White House."

I can't add much to that, so I'll just note C.I. from this morning:

The above is from David D. Kirkpatrick and Scott Shane's "G.O.P. Senators Say Accord Is Set on Wiretapping" in this morning's New York Times and the excerpt above is from the ninth and ten paragraphs. That's how far down you have to dive through the nonsense so well captured by the headline.
Olympia Snowe's a star of the piece and she's the Queen of Delusion but then most people smeared in the lead up to the war ("French!") by her own party would have wised up a long time ago. Proving she's not most people, or competent, Snowe is pleased as punch that from now on the new "rules" will give the administration 45 days to seek a warrant (as opposed to the current 72 hours) when they want to spy on American citizens (45 days they can spy without a warrant) UNLESS the attorney general (that would be Gonzales) will "certify that the surveillance is necessary to protect the country and explain to the subcommittee why the administration has not sought a warrant" because, after all, Gonzales has done such a brilliant job telling the Senate the truth, right? (Wrong.)
They've abdicated their responsibilities. But Harriet Miers (she just doesn't go away, does she?), Dick Cheney and Stephen J. Hadley (aka the gang of crooks) worked really hard on the legislation. It's called abdication of duty if not derelicition. But if the White House wants to write legislation, who are the cowed Republican senators to stand in their way?
Here's the Queen of Delusions, the Miss Havisham of the Senate, in the Times:
"We are reasserting Congressional responsibility and oversight," Ms. Snowe said.
And here's actual reality from the Washington Post:
At the White House, press secretary Scott McClellan described the DeWine proposal as interesting but reiterated the position that Bush already has the power to institute the program.
Walter Pincus' "Senate Panel Blocks Eavesdropping Probe" reveals that the only hope for democracy may be left to Arlen Specter, of all people:
The NSA issue was brought up at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who is drafting his own bill. Specter warned that he will try to reduce the administration's funding unless Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales agrees to answer more of his committee's questions."We're having quite a time in getting responses to questions as to what has happened with the electronic surveillance program," Specter said. "I want to put the administration on notice and this committee on notice that I may be looking for an amendment to limit funding as to the electronic surveillance program -- which is the power of the purse -- if we can't get an answer in any other way."

I'm sorry but I always laugh when C.I. does Great Expectations. There was another thing at The Third Estate Sunday Review and I told Elaine, "Ma, thinks you came up with the 'Pip' ref. Elaine said, 'Tell her it was C.I.'"

I also think it's funny because I can see Olympia Snowe as Miss Havisham. :D

Abramoff Attorney Threatens to "Name Names" At Sentencing Hearing
This update on the case of indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff -- a federal judge has rejected a request to delay his sentencing because imprionsonment could derail his cooperation in several ongoing criminal investigations. Abramoff was ordered to return for sentencing on March 29th. Abbe Lowell, Abramoff's attorney warned the court he may reveal details of the government’s investigations at his client’s sentencing. Lowell said: "We will name names. We will provide the public with evidence of what is going on out there. It seems to me that is not in the interest of law enforcement."

Okay, I don't have much to say here but this is something Elaine and I both made a note of and we both go, "Did we hear that right?" when we were on the phone picking our two items.

Abramoff's attorney wants a delay in sentencing. If he doesn't get it, "We will name names. We will provide the public with evidence of what is going on out there." What? Are they blackmailing the feds? Is Abramoff saying there's a cover up going on? What does that threat mean?

Remember yesterday when I was talking about how it was important to give credit to our left voices? Tony told me about how a daily newspaper had "borrowed" from a left site without giving credit. So to make sure I do my part to give people on our side credit, Bill Conroy's "Dallas Morning News breathlessly reports House of Death drug-war script:"

Notice the date of the Dallas Morning News' story -- March 29, 2005. (The actual story available on the Internet shows a publication date of May 20, 2005. I guess the paper's stories get a new publication date once they are put online? )
Anyway, there is no mention in the story about how Gonzalez’ letter was mysteriously "revealed."
Well, here's a clue.
Narco News obtained that memo exclusively through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and published the unredacted
text of the letter online on March 23, and 11 days later put the actual document online.
So you have to wonder just how the Dallas Morning News came upon Gonzalez' memo, don't you? Maybe they went through the arduous process of obtaining the memo through FOIA themselves, just so they could avoid crediting Narco News?
Well, that's par for the course. It's tough for a mainstream media outlet to admit it got beat by the feisty underdog. So sometimes it's easier to make it appear they got the story first to avoid being honest about who really "revealed" the information.
In any event, the current story by the Dallas Morning News about the informant Lalo supposedly being extradited to Mexico is not really the important news it is set up to be in that newspaper's predictable drug-war script. ICE officials have long hinted to Narco News that Lalo was deemed a loose end who needs to be cut from the picture to assure the cover-up in this case does not unravel. Extraditing Lalo to Mexico, where he is certain to be killed by the narcos he double crossed, serves just that purpose.
The Dallas Morning News, in its eagerness to pound its chest in "breaking" news on the story, neglects to mention anything in its recent story about the cover-up of the U.S. government’s complicity in the murders in Juarez, which Narco News has shown, with documentation, reaches to the upper levels of the Justice Department.
But then, the Dallas Morning News would have to credit Narco News for that revelation and admit they dropped the ball in pursuing the
cover-up angle on the story. Or maybe they have other reasons for avoiding a confrontation with powerful sources inside the Justice Department whom they depend on for getting scoops and access in generating their ongoing script for the so-called drug war.

That's not right. When someone rips off someone, it's not right. Wouldn't have taken but one sentence to say "the memo obtained by Narco News" and if I did what the Dallas Morning News did on a class paper, I'd get a big, fat "F." You have to credit the sources.

Short tonight because I've got a book to read. Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush which is put out by the Center for Constitutional Rights. (Thank you to C.I. for the book.)

Now don't forget to check out Like Maria Said Paz for Elaine's thoughts. And don't miss Betty's latest: "The Chicken Lays An Egg"

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Court has a funny idea of "justice" and giving Zirin (and others) credit earned

Good evening. Democracy Now! is on the road and in London. In London all week. So let's kick things off with Democracy Now!

Supreme Court Rules Federally-Funded Schools Must Allow Recruiting
In other news, the Supreme Court has ruled military recruiting must be allowed on college campuses that accept federal funding. In a unanimous ruling, Justices rejected a free-speech challenge from law schools that said they shouldn't be forced to accept recruitment so long as the military maintains a "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gay men and lesbian. The schools maintain the policy is discriminatory.

Unanimous. What a brave Court, eh? What a load of crap. The Court says it's okay to allow recruiters on campus if they discriminate. So all the racists and sexists should get ready for their careers days! Think I'm joking? Have you paid any attention to what the so-called "faith-based" organizations are trying to do with their "hiring"? Are you an unmarried woman? Better rethink dropping off that resume. And now, thanks to the Court, they can use all that money they've got, thanks to the Bully Boy, and start participating in career days at colleges.
No reason they shouldn't be allowed to, not after that spit in the face of equal protection and call it "justice" decision.

Since the Court won't protect you, it falls to each of us. So here, we'll add three links to help you out:

Coalition Against Militarism in Schools
Counter-Recruitment and Alternatives to the Military Program
Campus Anti-War Network

I'll also grab two that C.I. added this weekend to The Common Ills:

War Resisters Support Campaign
The G.I. Rights Hotline

Army Announces New Review of Tillman Death
In military news, the US army has announced a new review of the death of former football star turned US Ranger Pat Tillman. Tillman made headlines when he quit the NFL to fight after the Sept. 11 attacks. He died while serving in Afghanistan in April 2004. The military initially mislead his family into believing he was killed in battle when in fact he was killed by US troops. Tillman’s death has already been probed on three separate occasions. The probes have only resulted in light punishment for some of his fellow soldiers. The new probes will focus on both the details of his shooting and allegations the Army covered up crucial facts after he was killed. A military spokesperson said earlier investigations had produced enough evidence to warrant possible charges of negligent homicide.

First, no, no first. This is a theme here. I got a beef. Get ready. Here's Dave Zirin's "Why Did Pat Tillman Die?" from CounterPunch:

Paging Mr. Orwell. In explaining why the Army was finally launching a criminal investigation of the April 2004 friendly fire death of NFL star-turned-Army-Ranger Pat Tillman, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace sighed, "Although there is no evidence there was criminal activity the investigators did not specifically look at whether there was criminal activity. In other words, the previous four investigations were flawless except for the fact that they didn,t investigate anything. Now the Army has committed publicly to reexamining the circumstances around Pat Tillman,s death as a formal criminal probe.
The reopening of the case represents a triumph for the Tillman family, particularly Pat,s parents Patrick Sr. and Mary, who have been pushing for a criminal probe for almost two years.

Now C.I. covered this on Sunday morning, early Sunday morning. And C.I. linked to Dave Zirin's "Why Pat Tillman's Parents Are No Longer Silent" because Zirin's been all over this story and even includes it in his book.

So what's my point. I got a beef. I'm seeing, online, all these people linking on Monday to a late Sunday piece. Not by Dave Zirin. The piece doesn't even mention Dave Zirin. Usually, you've got some blogger rubbing their thighs with glee, "Oh ___ ___ is all over this! He's the first one to talk about this!" Well, no, HE wasn't. Dave Zirin was. And in terms of Sunday, C.I. was linking to Dave Zirin's piece that makes all the points ____ ____ makes in his much linked piece that doesn't mention Dave Zirin. So some people knew Zirin was on this story and stayed on it.

Shouldn't our supposed left be aware of Dave Zirin? I talked to C.I. on the phone about this and we both agreed that Zirin has repeatedly written about this topic and that there's something sad when supposed lefties are rushing to credit a mainstream source after Zirin's been on this story forever.

Now I read Zirin's book, What's My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States, me and Wally even picked it as our favorite book of 2005 (here and here). And okay, maybe everyone didn't read the book -- their loss. But he was on Democracy Now! talking about this and much more. He's written about this and his stuff on it has appeared at CounterPunch, Common Dreams and The Nation as well as at his Edge of Sports. He's been on Air America Radio (Chuck D's On the Real and Laura Flanders' RadioNation) so I think if you haven't heard of him and you consider yourself informed, you need to take a little responsibility.

I don't think they're uninformed. I think it was "Oh mainstream source! Yea! Mainstream source! Credible!" We need to support our left voices and if we're not doing that, maybe we aren't left?

Now I want to give some credit because there are voices, on the left, who aren't afraid to criticize Dexter Filkins of the New York Times.

Dexy wrote a book review two Sundays ago. Three voices weren't afraid to call him on it. Here they are in chronological order.

C.I. from "And the war drags on . . ." Sunday, Feb 26th:

Now for the New York Times. Prepare to chuckle (and thanks to Rob for pointing it out, I often skip the book section and had intended this to be one of those days):
But [Paul L.] Bremer bears a heavy responsibility for keeping silent -- and so does General Sanchez. If we can ssume that Bremer's recollection is correct, then General Sanchez's remarks indicate that Baghdad was indeed out of control, that both he and Bremer knew it and that without more troops, it was likely to stay out of control. [. . .]
By staying silent, Bremer ensured that there would be no public debate on the merits of deploying more Americans troops. By staying silent, he ensured that there would be little public discussion over the condition of the Iraqi security forces, whose quality he doubted.
[. . . .]
What do we learn from the above? It's by an in-house writer at the paper so it's safe to assume (no surprise) that the Times argument remains "Stay until more are slaughtered!" Yeah, they're making the idiotic argument that "more troops" are needed. Got to protect those foreign investments, got to protect that "free market," no need to leave until we've privatized everything. That's their real argument. The Times can support human rights . . . to a point. The point is where human rights intersects with a "healthy" profit motive. At that point, the paper tosses human rights out the window.
Listening to the scolding of Bremer (who deserves it) for his silence is anyone else thinking of all that the paper of record has been silent on? The Bully Boy hump? The NSA warrantless and illegal spying that they sat on for a year. And so much more. (For years and years and years.)
If you're thinking, "Who is the Times to scold anyone for staying silent?" wait, it's about to get a whole lot funnier (and more hypocritical). The review is entitled "Desert Sturm" (oh, aren't they cute -- in their minds). And the writer? Dexter Filkins.
Dexter Filkins who stayed silent on the slaughter he should have witnessed in Falluja. Supposedly he was there in November 2004. But to read his rah-rah, video game reporting, it was all, people killed, people who had it coming to them. And it was so 'totally cool' judging by his breathless reporting. (Did the American troops have to swat him on the snout to get him to stop humping their legs?) It was all so glorious, so wonderous to read Dexy's "award winning" "reporting." The piece that took over six days to make it into print. Who edited that report? Who had to clear it? Why did it take so long to make it into the paper?
Those are questions Dexy may have to answer someday (probably sooner than he thinks). But the man who couldn't report the truth on Iraq (not just on Falluja, on the entire occupation) now wants to scold Bremer for staying silent. It's interesting to watch the liars turn on one another.
As the Judith Miller controversy was in its final stages, I said repeatedly that if she helped get us into war (she was part of a large number of helpers -- she didn't do it alone), it's the "reporters" like Dexter Filkins who keep us over there by refusing to report the truth. Now Dexter wants to scold Bremer for "staying silent"? Filkins' press releases live from the Green Zone will not be forgotten. He can pretend like the only one staying silent was Bremer but it was him too. Had the Times written the truth about the occupation long ago, America might have woken up sooner.

Danny Schechter "Why Protest Media Coverage Mar 15?" February 27:

New York Times Baghdad correspondent Dexter Filkins reviews Paul Bremer’s book "My Year in Iraq." He faults him and General Sanchez for not demanding more troops. He PRAISES him for organizing elections saying "HE DESERVES OUR GRATITUDE FOR BRINGING THEM OFF." Our gratitude? Who is talking about, the NY Times, The US Government, or his readers?This just underscores the continuing identification of a major media outlet's top correspondent with the military mission which lost because it just wasn't big enough, Never mind that most Iraqis who did vote said they were doing so not to endorse some Bushian or Bremerian view of democracy but to give the the Americans the ritual they insisted on so that they would leave. There is no mention in the review of how Bremer's "energetic" CPA countenanced BILLIONS of dollars in corruption.In contrast to Fikins mild and qualified rebuke, I ran into an Iraqi American now working for the Times who quipped that Bremer should be on trial alongside Saddam.Two journalists. Two views. Guess which one gets ink in the NY Times?

Peter Hart on March 3rd's CounterSpin:

In L. Paul Bremer's new book about running the occupation of Iraq, he reveals that he secretly asked the Pentagon for tens of thousands more troops as the occupation began to disintegrate in May of 2004. Bremer also reveals that the top American commander in Iraq, Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, was eager to have at least 40,000 more troops. Of course this contradicts public claims by Bremer and Sanchez and the White House that addition troops weren't needed and that commanders didn't want them. In the New York Times Book review on February 26th, Times Baghdad correspondent Dexter Filkins chided Bremer and Sanchez for not going public about the troops shortage. As Filkins put it, QUOTE: "To nearly anyone who spent time in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, it was scandalously obvious that the American military, for all its prowess lacked sufficient number of soldiers to bring the country under control. Iraqis knew it, American officers beneath their breath often said it." But if it was that obvious, perhaps it's also a scandal that Filkins wasn't sounding the alarm in his reporting in the Times. By not prominently reporting about the shortage because officials wouldn't say as much on the record, Filkins seems to be suggesting, probably without meaning to, that he needed the approval of US officials to report what he was hearing with his own ears and seeing with his own eyes.

And Ruth caught Hart's commentary so thanks to Ruth.

Now at some point, you're going to see everyone in the mainstream piling on Dexter Filkins the way they did Judith Miller. He deserves it as much as Miller. But I want us all to remember which voices were making real time criticism and which ones weren't.

Give credit to Peter Hart, Danny Schechter, C.I. and any other left voice that hasn't been afraid to criticize Dexter Filkins. It's a lot easier to wait and figure out what's safe, to stay silent until a huge number of voices are speaking out. You see that with the war. Congress isn't sure whether it's "safe" to speak out. Your voices on the left that speak out need to get their credit.

Dave Zirin spoke out. Not once or twice. He covered the Pat Tillman issue over and over. He deserves his credit. If we're not going to credit the left, we can't complain when others don't.

That's it for tonight. Check out Like Maria Said Paz for Elaine's commentary.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Good night. Finally. Elaine couldn't get it, Rebecca couldn't get in and I couldn't get in. We all got the same error messages when we tried to log into our accounts tonight.

Study: 90% of Baghdad Residents Suffer Psychological Disorders
Meanwhile, the Washington Post is reporting a new study has found more than 90 percent of Baghdad residents suffer from psychological disorders such as insomnia, depression and post-traumatic stress. According to the study, violent incidents have nearly doubled during the three years since the invasion than in the preceding 14 years. A mass-exodus of educated professionals since the US invasion has left the country with only 75 psychiatrists -- and no child psychiatrists at all.

If we were there to help (I know, I never bought that lie either), wouldn't we have done something about that from the start? We were happy to hold conferences on "investment" opportunities and privatization and you name it, but we weren't interested in organizing medical teams. And we weren't interested in protecting the hospitals or their medical infrastructure.

Post Reporter Gave Back FBI Document in Possible Spy Case
Meanwhile, the Washington Post has revealed one of its reporters gave the FBI back a secret document he obtained from a group who said it contained proof they were targets of the government's spy program. The reporter, David Ottaway, received the document from Saudi Arabia's al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in 2004. The document had been mistakenly handed over to the group by the federal government. The Post finally broke the group's story last week, when its Oregon affiliate filed a lawsuit against the government. The group says government records show the National Security Agency intercepted several of the group's conversations in the spring of 2004. Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie said the government's surveillance program was not known at the time Ottaway received the document, and thus contained no "useful information."

This story pissed me off. Someone went to a reporter with proof they were being spied on and the reporter's response is to rat out the source and hand the document over to the FBI? Am I missing something here? At a time when the press wants to cry that they're under attack from the government, this guy Ottaway is basically in league with them.

Check out Wally's "THIS JUST IN! CHENEY'S OSCAR NIGHT RAMPAGE!" which is hilarious and "Ruth's Public Radio Report" which is full of information. I'm at work in the morning so I didn't get to catch Law & Disorder but Nina heard and said everyone should go listen.

There was a thing I had planned for tonight but that was what, three hours ago? So that's going to be it. I'll pick up on what I had planned for tonight tomorrow.