Friday, May 26, 2006

Enron and Iraq

Good evening! It's the weekend. I'm wiped out from working on the yard so I'll be typing slow. Or even slower. Let's get things kicked off with Democracy Now!

Enron Execs Found Guilty On Conspiracy, Fraud Charges
The two top figures in the Enron corporate scandal have been found guilty. On Thursday, Enron founder Ken Lay was convicted in two separate trials on 10 counts of conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud and for making false statements to banks. Enron's former CEO Jeffrey Skilling was also convicted. A jury found him guilty on 19 of 28 counts. The conspiracy and fraud convictions each carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Four years ago Enron filed for bankruptcy after years of defrauding its own employees and investors. The bankruptcy put over 4,000 people out of work. The value of the company's stock dropped from ninety dollars to about 30 cents. Thousands of Enron employees lost their lifesavings.

For more on this, you can check out "Enron Execs Found Guilty on Multiple Conspiracy, Fraud Charges," "Enron: The Bush Connection," "Enron Played Central Role in California Energy Crisis," "Enron - The Smartest Guys in the Room" because Democracy Now! devoted the hour to Enron.

They did a great job too, covering everything and not just "Ken Lay's going to jail!" They gave you the background and everything. This is from "Enron Played Central Role in California Energy Crisis:"

AMY GOODMAN: In California, the state's former governor Gray Davis praised the jury for convicting Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. David said, quote, "Given the way Enron ripped off California, I think the jury did an excellent job. I take some solace in the fact that Lay and Skilling be will send some time in prison," he said. Six years ago, California was plunged into an unprecedented energy crisis, rolling blackouts shut down parts of the state, power bills soared. It turned out that at the center of the crisis was Enron, although the company's role wasn't fully understood at the time. Two years ago, lawyers involved in a lawsuit in Washington state obtained audio tapes that proved Enron asked power companies to take plants offline at the height of the California energy crisis, in order to make more money. In one taped phone call, an Enron employee celebrated the fact that a massive forest fire had shut down a transmission line carrying energy into California, causing the price of energy to rise.
ENRON EMPLOYEE 2: Now, the magical word of the day is “Burn, baby, burn.”
ENRON EMPLOYEE 1: What's happening?
ENRON EMPLOYEE 2: There's a fire under the core line. This will delay us from 45 to 2,100.
ENRON EMPLOYEE 1: Really. Burn, baby, burn!
AMY GOODMAN: In this phone call, an Enron employee talked about how the company had ripped off poor grandmothers in California. Listen carefully.
ENRON EMPLOYEE 1: So the rumor is true? They're f---ing taking all the money back from you guys? All that money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?
ENRON EMPLOYEE 2: Yeah, Grandma Millie, man. So she’s the one who couldn't figure out how to f---ing vote on the butterfly ballot, but yeah, now she wants her f---ing money back for all the power you've charged right up her -- jammed right up her a-- for f---ing $250 a megawatt hour. Yeah, you know. You know Grandma Millie. She's the one that Al Gore is fighting for.
AMY GOODMAN: Enron employees also discussed the possibility of Ken Lay becoming Secretary of Energy if George W. Bush won the 2000 election.
ENRON EMPLOYEE 1: Tell you what, you heard this here first. When Bush wins, that f---ing Bill Richardson, he's gone, that f---ing Clinton, all these f---ing socialists are gone.
ENRON EMPLOYEE 1: You know who the biggest single contributor to the Bush campaign is? ENRON EMPLOYEE 2: You.
ENRON EMPLOYEE 2: Is it Enron?
ENRON EMPLOYEE 2: Jesus Christ. Is that true?
ENRON EMPLOYEE 1: Yeah, I think it is.
ENRON EMPLOYEE 2: The biggest single contributor.
ENRON EMPLOYEE 1: Yeah, the biggest corporate contributor to the --
ENRON EMPLOYEE 2: Holy -- really? That's huge. That's huge.
ENRON EMPLOYEE 1: Ken Lay is going to be Secretary of Energy.
ENRON EMPLOYEE 2: Get out of here! Can you imagine that?
ENRON EMPLOYEE 1: Why not, though? Why not? It could be, right?
ENRON EMPLOYEE 1: I mean, why not? Who, you know, who's to say, why not?
ENRON EMPLOYEE 2: He could be. That would be awesome, actually.
ENRON EMPLOYEE 1: That would be -- how great would that be for all the players in the market?
ENRON EMPLOYEE 2: It would be great. I'd love to see Ken Lay be Secretary of Energy.
ENRON EMPLOYEE 1: We'd open these markets up.
ENRON EMPLOYEE 2: Yep, and you know what? If you don't know what you're doing, you're f---ed. See you.
AMY GOODMAN: And in this phone call from January 2001, an Enron employee asked a worker at a power plant in Las Vegas to take the plant offline. That same day energy supplies were so tight that Northern California experienced a stage three power emergency, and rolling blackouts hit as many as two million consumers.
POWER PLANT WORKER: Las Vegas Co-Gen, this is Rich.
ENRON EMPLOYEE: Hey, Rich, this is Bill up at Enron.
ENRON EMPLOYEE: How you doin', man?
POWER PLANT WORKER: Junior or Senior?
ENRON EMPLOYEE: Heh, heh, the Third.
POWER PLANT WORKER: The Third! What's happening, Bill the Third?
ENRON EMPLOYEE: Not much, man. I'm giving you a call. We've got some issues for tomorrow.
ENRON EMPLOYEE: Are you ready for some issues? You're just about out of there, aren't you? POWER PLANT WORKER: I got a couple more hours, I ain't going anywhere. All right, shoot. I've got pen and paper.
ENRON EMPLOYEE: All right man. I'm not -- this is going to be a word-of-mouth kind of thing.
ENRON EMPLOYEE: Tonight, when you finish your normal QF, so for hour ending 1, which will actually be tomorrow --
ENRON EMPLOYEE: We want you guys to get a little creative --
ENRON EMPLOYEE: -- and come up with a reason to go down.
ENRON EMPLOYEE: Anything you want to do over there? Any cleaning, anything like that?
POWER PLANT WORKER: Yeah. Yeah. There's some stuff that we could be doing tonight.
ENRON EMPLOYEE: That's good.
POWER PLANT WORKER: Yeah, we need to do some -- we need to come down and inspect this switch on the steam turbine, this one switch on this induction steam valve that's been failing us, and we need to be down in order to pull the switch and adjust it.
ENRON EMPLOYEE: I like that. And, I don't know, I guess around 11:00 for hour ending 11 --
ENRON EMPLOYEE: You got to go back -- we need you to go back down.
POWER PLANT WORKER: Okay, shut back down for hour ending 11?
POWER PLANT WORKER: So, we'll do our normal afternoon shutdown tomorrow.
ENRON EMPLOYEE: But we're not wanting to have it prescheduled.
ENRON EMPLOYEE: It’s supposed to be, you know, kinda one of those things.
POWER PLANT WORKER: Okay, so we're just coming down for some maintenance, like a forced outage type thing.
POWER PLANT WORKER: And that's cool?
POWER PLANT WORKER: Because the schedule I just got over here, well, you know what it says.
ENRON EMPLOYEE: Yep, I'm looking right at it.
POWER PLANT WORKER: Okay, it's the new schedule.
ENRON EMPLOYEE: You just got a new one?
POWER PLANT WORKER: It says "new schedule" on the bottom. It's showing 52 all day.
ENRON EMPLOYEE: Oh, right, and so that's the one you're going to want to ignore.
ENRON EMPLOYEE: I knew I could count on you.
POWER PLANT WORKER: No problem. I'm sure I'll have a good time.

AMY GOODMAN: Again, that's an Enron employee asking a worker at a power plant in Las Vegas to take the plant offline. That same day energy supplies were so tight, Northern California experienced a stage three power emergency, and rolling blackouts hit as many as two million consumers. Greg Palast, you write about this in Armed Madhouse.

I'm looking forward to reading Palast's new book. It comes out the first week of June, I think. But that's what was going on, or part of it. People lost their savings and that does need to be paid attention to but Enron did more than cook the books, they jacked up prices and then created energy brownouts and blackouts.

Toll Rises For Haditha Massacre As Murtha Sees Dozen Court-Martials
The estimated toll of innocent civilians killed by US Marines in the Iraqi town of Haditha is now higher than previously thought. Democratic Congressmember John Murtha told the Marine Corps Times that the number of dead Iraqis is actually 24, up from the previous figure of 15. Murtha says would not be surprised if a dozen Marines face court-martials for the killings. Retired Brigadier General David Brahms, a former top lawyer for the Marine Corps, said: "When these investigations come out, there's going to be a firestorm. It will be worse than Abu Ghraib -- nobody was killed at Abu Ghraib."

So will we get another highly edited report? Will some Senators (like Texas' John Corny -- that's his nickname in this community) say we mustn't talk about it and mustn't know? They're so good about "protecting" us, aren't they?

Read Cedric's "THIS JUST IN! BULLY BOY GOES 'WOOPS!'" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! BULLY BOY GOES 'WOOPS!'" -- it's a joint entry they did together. I told Elaine I'd go alphabetical so she'll reverse the order, but it's a joint entry. And give it up for Cedric who did a post each day this week. Wally did too but he posts Monday through Friday every week barring any special events or personal duties. Cedric was hoping to see if he could do a little more this week. It was rough for him to find the time, but he did it. Be sure to check out Like Maria Said Paz for Elaine's thoughts and check out Kat's "Kat's Korner: Dixie Chicks Taking The Long Way home while NYT gets lost along the way" which is just amazing.

For more on Enron, check out The Center for Public Integrity's "Power Outage: An Enron Backgrounder from the Center for Public Integrity:"

The Center for Public Integrity was the first to report on this mutually beneficial relationship, identifying Enron as Bush's top "career patron" in its book, The Buying of the President 2000. The Center has followed the Enron scandal from its inception in 2001 to today's events. This is a timeline of our investigative reporting:
January 5, 2000 -- The Center for Public Integrity identifies Houston-based Enron Corp. as George W. Bush's No. 1 "career patron" in The Buying of the President 2000. The Center notes that Enron was one of the more than two dozen corporations to benefit from a voluntary emissions compliance program that Bush put into place while governor of Texas.
January 9, 2002 -- The Center reports that 24 top executives and directors of Enron contributed a total of nearly $800,000 to President Bush, the national political parties, members of Congress, and others overseeing investigations of the company for possible securities fraud from 1999 through 2001. The Center's report also notes Enron's $1.9 million in "soft money" donations over that same period and discloses that Kenneth Lay, Enron's chairman, made significant contributions to a political committee set up by Attorney General John Ashcroft. Within a day of the release of the Center's report, Ashcroft recuses himself from the Enron investigation.
January 11, 2002 -- The Center reports that 14 of the 100 highest-ranking officials in the Bush administration reported owning stock in Enron on their personal financial disclosure forms. Among the largest: White House political adviser Karl Rove, with shares valued at more than $100,000 (and possibly as high as $250,000).

More reality comes via C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Chaos and violence continue but Bully Boy and Tony Blair appear to have their minds elsewhere. Al Jazeera notes that Bully Boy's concerned about speaking better and Tony Blair hides behind the puppet government. [See Cedric's excerpt of Norman Solomon writing on puppet governments.] The AFP and Reuters report that Tony Blair, unable to fly the American flag, is saying it's the duty of the entire world to support the puppet government he and Bully Boy have created. Apparently not buying into Blair's bluster, CBS and the AP report that Romano Prodi, the new prime minister of Italy, held a talk with his cabinet "to map an exit strategy for the nation's troops in Iraq, who are being gradually withdrawn." Updating that story, Maria Sanminiatelli reports that Italy has announced they are pulling 1,100 troops out of Iraq (which would leave 1,600 stationed in Iraq). This as the Guardian of London reports Bully Boy's begging Tony Blair to stay on as England's prime minister.
In Baghdad, the AFP reports that two players on Iraq's national tennis team as well as their coach have been murdered "reportedly for wearing Western-style tennis shorts." The AFP reminds that "[l]ast week 15 members of the Iraqi Taekwondo team were kidnapped between Fallujah and Ramadi." The BBC reports on roadside bomb attacks on two markets that have resulted in the deaths of at least nine and at least fifty wounded. There were other bombings that wounded Iraqis today but no reports of any other fatalities. Reuters notes that three corpses ("bullet wounds and showing signs of torture") were discovered in Baghdad.
More corpses were discvered today. In Kut, the Associated Press notes the discovery of four. Reuters notes the killing of two police officers in Baquba following the kidnapping of employees of a TV station. In Sinjar, a liquor store owner is dead from a bombing (two others wounded).
In Basra, the BBC notes the death of a "Sunni Imam and his bodyguard" from a drive-by shooting. Also in Basra, the AP reports that mosques were closed following the murder of the Sunni cleric. KUNA reports on an oil pipeline fire in Khour Al-Emmaya, reportedly caused by a leak in a pipeline "at a docking station." In Kirkuk, the Associated Press reports that a roadside bomb took the life of one police officer and wounded four others.
CNN reports on the investiation into the deaths of civilians in Haditha last November and quotes Pentagon sources that "Charges, including murder, could soon be filed against Marines allegedly involved." Editor & Publisher notes that the investiagtion and the off the record admissions take place months after the press reported the events in Haditha. Gulf News reports that Human Rights Watch John Sifton as stating: "There is no excuse for a massacre and anyone concerned about America's image can only wish that those who are responsible will be severely prosecuted and those who tried to cover this up will be punished.'' This as CBS and the AP note "Investigators believe that their criminal investigation into the deaths of about two dozen Iraqi civilians points toward a conclusion that Marines committed unprovoked murders, a senior defense official said Friday." Finally, the Scotsman reports that "the bodies of Privates Adam Morris, 19, and Joseva Lewaicei, 25, British troops who died in a roadside bomb attack near Basra two weeks ago, arrived back at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire yesterday."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Iraq, Immigration, Dave Zirin on Barry Bonds & Babe Ruth, and Tom Hayden

Good evening, it's Thursday and almost a three day weekend! Let's kick it off with Democracy Now!

Iraq VP Calls For Withdrawal Timetable
Ahead of Bush-Blair MeetingIn Iraq, a top leader has renewed calls for President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair to set a timetable for the withdrawal of occupying troops.
Iraqi Vice President Tareq Al Hashemi: "Two days ago we spoke with Tony Blair about this issue and the fact that it is necessary that the U.S. and British administration should put a timetable for its troops withdrawal from Iraq. We have discussed this thoroughly and I convinced him of the necessity of announcing a timetable for the withdrawal of the occupying troops and told him frankly that Iraqis have a right to know when the last British or American soldier will leave Iraq."

Bush and Blair have long rejected setting withdrawal timetables and vowed to withdraw troops at their own discretion. The two leaders will meet today in Washington with Iraq expected to top the agenda.

We're not leaving. We'll have to be forced out. Bully Boy's too damn greedy. We're building bases and in all their business. There was no turning it over to an international body after Bully Boy's infamous Mission Accomplished speech three years ago. There's been no effort to operate by the rules for an occupying power. The only thing that will bring the troops home is the people, not politicians.

Senate Expected To Vote On Immigration Bill
The Senate has agreed to end debate on a controversial immigration bill, setting the stage for a vote likely to come today. The bill would heighten enforcement measures, establish a temporary guest worker program, punish employers who hire undocumented immigrants and open a route to citizenship for at least some undocumented immigrants. If passed, the Senate bill would have to be reconciled with the Sensenbrenner bill passed by the House in December. That bill focuses strictly on enforcement and would consider undocumented immigrants to be felons. It would also make it a crime for priests, nuns, health care workers and other social workers to offer help to undocumented immigrants.

And they did vote and they did pass it. If there's any justice it will die as the two houses try to hammer out something they can agree to because the bill is hideous. But you don't know that from reading the New York Times, do you? (See C.I.'s "NYT: Carl Hulse provides the primer on advocacy journalism.") If you're naive enough to still trust corporate media, you've been tricked about the Senate bill that the Times and others have praised to the roof. You can check out a discussion on it by click-clicking here and this is an excerpt:

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, even on the issue of legalization, as I understand the final version now, it would still call for only seven million of the eleven million people to get on the path immediately to citizenship and for another --
STAN MARK: Actually, our position is that it's more than 50% of people would be ineligible for legalization. I think some litigators and some people who have followed this much more closely, in terms of their past experiences with the litigation program from '86, predict about two to three million people who may get through the first level. As you know, there's a three-tier system. The first-tier system does allow people to, you know, eventually over a period of perhaps more than ten, fifteen years to actually get citizenship, and the first step, of course, to legalization. The second tier does not necessarily allow very many people to get through at all.
And, as a matter of fact, the third level actually creates a guest workers program, which we believe is tantamount to legalized slavery, as a famous official Department of Labor official, Lee G. Williams, in the early 1960s, heading the Department of Labor when the Bracero Program, the last major guest workers program that went through, was finally terminated, he called it, quote, "legalized slavery." And we believe that any type of guest workers programs that reinstitutes those types of provisions or those provisions instituting programs like the Bracero Program should be --
JUAN GONZALEZ: Am I correct in this also that those people who have been in the country a year or less would have to be deported?
STAN MARK: That's correct.

[. . .]
AMY GOODMAN: Why would a guest worker program be legalized slavery? What does it mean, a guest worker program?
STAN MARK: Well, in terms of -- most guest workers programs in the past have and, I think, would be perpetuated in any type of guest worker program today, the lack of -- the absolute control of the workplace by employers with the government-sanctioned program itself being put in place, people would have very little rights to move from job to job. Their ability to depend on employment would be tied to that type of job. They wouldn't be able to go from place to place. And historically these types of programs open them to the most -- make them most vulnerable to exploitation and really abuse by employers with very little avenues or options to get out of that kind of a situation.

I have no idea why the New York Times lies and doubt they even need a reason to most days. But I know being in California for that week and talking to people my age about why this issue mattered so much to them (for parents or grandparents or older siblings or themselves) made me pay attention. It's too damn bad that nothing could make the Times pay attention and feel ashamed of lying in editorial after editorial, article after article.

People's lives were at stake but all whores like the Times could see were dollar signs. From the Times on down, everyone who lied (or was an idiot spreading on lies the didn't know anything about) should be ashamed. The best thing has always been for this to die in Congress and I'm still hoping for that.

It's funny what gets accepted as "good" and what gets slammed as "bad." The Senate bill is accepted as "good." So is Babe Ruth. The one and only Dave Zirin tackles the image of Babe Ruth versus Barry Bonds in "Bonding With the Babe:"

Ruth's 714 home run record lacks the spit-shined purity his backers trumpet. The Sultan of Swat made his bones playing against only a select segment of the population because of the ban on players whose skin color ran brown to black. Ruth never had to hit against Negro League greats Satchel Paige or Lefty Mathis to amass the magic 714. Yet no asterisk for institutionalized racism mars the Babe's marks. Ruth also was a habitual user of a banned substance that was deemed unambiguously illegal by the federal government--a drug Ruth believed enhanced his performance: alcohol. Ruth was a star during the roaring prohibition 1920s, and as teammate Joe Dugan said, "Babe would go day and night, broads and booze."
But Ruth didn't just stop at the watering hole to find an edge. According to The Baseball Hall of Shame's Warped Record Book, by Bruce Nash, Allan Zullo and Bob Smith, the Bambino fell ill one year attempting to inject himself with extract from a sheep's testes. This effort by more than a few athletes of his era to seek the healing and strengthening properties of testosterone prefigured the craze for steroids. When Ruth fell ill from his attempted enhancement, the media was told that Ruth merely had "a bellyache." This was believable since Ruth was a glutton, famed for eating eighteen-egg omelets. The Sultan of Swat was also a glutton for women and violence, and he could be roused to fisticuffs if it was suggested, as it often was, that he was part black. The Babe's famous trade-out of Boston in 1920 was justified by Sox owner Harry Frazee by saying that Ruth was "one of the most selfish and inconsiderate athletes I have ever seen."
Of course in Ruth's day, without twenty-four-hour sports yipping and with sportswriting reduced to sonnets of heroism for a country weary after World War I, his flaws were essentially invisible to an adoring public. But Bonds's flaws are picked over, his every strikeout met with cheers by a herd of likeminded writers who who act more like the White House press corps than independent journalists.

Read it an think about how Bonds gets raked over the coals day after day but it's look the other way on Babe Ruth.

Because Irish-Americans stick together, here's Tom Hayden's "Why Jane Harman Should Be Challenged"

It's no secret that Harman is the center of Democratic friction. She was one of a handful of Congressmembers invited into the secret White House briefings on what has mushroomed into a major scandal: the launch of domestic spying by intelligence agencies without warrants.
The ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Harman promised the White House to keep secret what she heard at the meetings.
She could have been a whistleblower, but chose not to be.
She could have refused the unconditional promise of secrecy, but chose not to.
She could have resigned the secret committee without comment, letting her silence do the talking, but chose not to.

Seriously, read Tom Hayden's thing. (I'd say "Hayden" but I'm afraid someone might think I mean Michael Hayden.) He's smarter than most of us will ever be (especially me) and he's got something worth reading. (He really is Irish-American, by the way.)

C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

As Amy Goodman noted, Tareq Al Hashemi, vice president of Iraq, has called for "a timetable for the withdrawal of occupying troops" from Iraq. As Al Jazeera notes, Al Hashemi does not favor the notion of a set of conditions that would result in withdrawal of all foreign troops (US, British, et al) but instead favors a fixed date. The Irish Examiner reports that as Tony Blair and Bully Boy meet in DC, "the White House" has declared it "premature to talk about troop withdrawals."
This as
Free Speech Radio News reports the Inspector General of Iraq's Oil Ministry has noted "that one billion dollars of Iraq's oil is being illegally smuggled out of the country every month." On the topic of the Oil Ministry, Steve Negus reports that Hussein al-Shahristani, exile installed as oil minister, has declared "the central government should handle all contracts related to petroleum exploration and production, putting him on a potential collision course with the autonomous Kurdish region which has recently begun to develop its own oil resources." What Kurds may read as a power grab occurs as the occupied nation is still without a minister of interior or defense.
In England, Matthew Tempest reports for the Guardian that "
attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, has been forced into disclosing further information relating to his decision that an ivasion of Iraq would be lawful." Goldsmith issues one ruling and then another (that was already known), the report traces the change of opinion to March 13th and he would inform Blair of the change in opinion (that the illegal invasion would suddenly be legal). March 17, 2003 was then the UN failed to endorse the Bully Boy's war lust, March 20th would see the start of the illegal invasion.
A battle in Baghdad (yes, in Baghdad) resulted in at least three people dead from
"[t]he ambush of Brig Gen. Khalil al-Abadi, head of the Defense Ministry logistics office"
reports the Associated Press. Reuters notes several bombings taking place in Iraq -- one "planted inside a building wounded 13 people," another wounded two police officers in New Baghdad, and another injured two police officers on "patrol in northeastern Baghdad." Reuters also notes that four corpses were discovered throughout Baghdad ("torture . . . gunshot wounds in their heads").
AFP reports that two more corpses were discovered in Baquba while Reuters notes an additional three ("bullet gunshot wounds") near Tikrit and that, in Balad, "U.S. forces handed over five decomposed bodies to the hospital." The AFP reports that a judge (Walid Ahmed) has been kidnapped while "traveling on a highway between Saddam's hometown of Tikrit and the city of Samarra." Reuters notes that Ali Hisham and his son were kidnapped not far from Kirkuk (Hisham is "head of the Turkmen Front party in town of Tuz Khurmato"). A "nine-year-old girl" died in Kirkuk from a roadside bomb, the AFP notes. Meanwhile the BBC reports that, James Cook has been determined to be not guilty ("by a jury panel of seven senior officers in Cochester") in the death of Ahmed Jabber Kareem -- three remain on trial. In the United States, Robert Burns reports that Gen. Michael W. Hagee is headed for Iraq as a result of concerns over "two recent cases of alleged killings of civilians in Iraq."
Reuters notes the Norwegian Refugee Council's report on Iraq:

Sectarian displacements received much attention in the mainstream world media in April 2006, yet equally large-scale population displacements caused by multiple military operations across the country have been largely unreported. Several hundred thousand people were displaced by military operations during 2005.

Now check out Cedric's Big Mix because Cedric and I picked out the news items from Democracy Now! together and are both blogging on them tonight. Check out Elaine's "Long but is there a topic? " (she's always off Thursdays but read her thing from yesterday if you missed it because it's really good). And thank you to Rebecca who stopped by here with a gift. (Dixie Chicks' The Long Way Home.) That was really nice. (Nicer was being able to sit and talk. Rebecca, you're friendship and time is always the best gift.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Michael Hayden, FCC and spying, and more

Good evening! Let's kick things off with Democracy Now!

Senate Intel. Committee Approves Hayden Nomination
General Michael Hayden has moved a step closer to becoming the next head of the CIA. On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to recommend Hayden's confirmation. Four Democrats joined the committee's Republican members in supporting Hayden's nomination. During his confirmation hearing, Hayden staunchly defended the Bush administration's domestic wiretap program he oversaw as director of the National Security Agency. In a statement, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, one of the three Democrats to vote against, said: "General Hayden directed an illegal program that put Americans on American soil under surveillance without the legally required approval of a judge."

How's that make you feel? You getting how lazy our Congress is? That's Republicans and Democrats. They ought to be ashamed. All but three said, "Oh who cares what you did to the American people, we like you!" I agree with Wally, Hayden does have a voice like a little girl. But he spies . . . just like a Bully Boy.

FCC Won't Investigate NSA's Access To Telephone Records
The Federal Communications Commission says it won't investigate whether the National Security Agency has obtained access to the telephone records of millions of US citizens. Calls for an investigation followed a USA Today report that three major telecom countries handed over customers' phone data to the NSA. The FCC says it cannot investigate because of the classified nature of the NSA's activities. Democratic Congressmember Ed Markey, one of several lawmakers who had requested the probe, said: "The FCC has abdicated its responsibility to protect Americans' privacy to the National Security Agency without even asking a single question about it."

So is the FCC scared of the Bully Boy? Nope, just in his pocket. Three Republican members (the head picked by Bully Boy) and they take their marching orders from the White House. With 29% approval ratings, people still can't find the guts to stand up to the Bully Boy. They probably never will. Maybe in 2006 things will change? If they do, I'm not sure it will be because of Democrats. I'm really disappointed in them and all their nonsense about how we can't do that and we mustn't do that. They've basically rolled over for six years. The bankruptcy legislation, the war, the Patriot Act, Bully Boy's nominations, investigating anything, they roll over and over.
They are supposed to be leaders but they're not and it's gotten really sad. Does that mean I'm voting Republican? No. But if there are Greens in my area, Democrats better be ready to fight for votes because I'm pretty disgusted with them. Be disgusted with NYT too (read C.I.'s "NYT: The New York Timid continues to ignore the NSA scandal").

you will laugh. You'll also laugh at Betty's latest chapter "His Head Is Fat." And for a story on an important film, check out "Retired Army Col. Charged With Sedition For Handing Flyer on Anti-War Vietnam Vets." (Sir! No! Sir! is the film.)

C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Chaos and violence -- the only consistents.
noted by Amy Goodman on Democray Now!,yesterday in Iraq: "at least 40 people were killed in violence around the country. In Baghdad, 11 people were killed and nine wounded in a bombing near a Shiite mosque".
Reuters notes that General Ahmed Dawod was shot by assailants. The AFP notes the death of Ahmed Daoud as well ("Daoud" is their spelling) and lists him as "Baghdad's deputy police commissioner." The Associated Press notes that drive-by shootings in Baghdad resulted in at least nine deaths: "a college student, a police officer, two street vendors, a university professor, two taxi drivers, the owner of a grocerys tore and a builder". Along with the shootings, bombings continued. Reuters reports on one that went off where people were seeking "day labouring jobs." The AFP notes two other bombs that wounded at least 10 (targets were a minibus and Palestine Street). AFP notes the discovery of eleven corpses in Baghdad.
Outside of Baghdad? The
Associated Press notes an oil blaze on a pipelin "south of Baghdad" as a result of a bomb. "Near Baquba," Reuters reports that a convoy was attacked resulting in the death of two bodyguards working for a provincial council member. In Basra, the AFP reports "gunmen" attacked a "British armored patrol."
AFP reports that Nuri al-Maliki, who couldn't keep his own deadline and barely kept the constitutionally mandated deadline, now says that by this weekend he expects to fill the posts of defense, interior and national security.
In the United States,
Michael Rowland reports on the case of Sergeant Santos Cardona -- prosecutors are arguing Cardona's actions at Abu Ghraib resulted from a desire "for entertainment." The Associated Press reports that seven people were arrested at the Port of Olympia protesting in Olympia, Washington where "military vehicles" and convoys were "to be loaded onto a ship." Five are charged with "pedestrian interference," one with trespassing and the seventh "was arrested a day earlier." Sam Green, activist, is quoted as saying, "Everybody's a little terrified right now. We were doing what we thought was legal." Finally. Remember Donald Rumsfeld's annoying smirk and dismissing the looting in Iraq -- joking it was one vase shown over and over in a media loop? Evonne Coutros takes a look at the looting and speaks with Marine Col. Matthew Bogdanos who tells her that "almost 6,000 of the 14,000 known missing antiquites" have been recovered (Bogdanos has been working on the recovery since April 2003).

Cedric read a thing by Samantha Power called "Why Can't We?" and had a few questions. I read it and did as well. (Such as why she didn't credit someone for using their slogan? Hint, it's a slogan used every week on RadioNation with Laura Flanders.) But the first page is talking about genocide. Rwanda is brought up and tied into Darfur. Why? Who knows?

But all good people are supposed to come together on Darfur. Guess I'm not "good people" because I'm not sending monies to an organization to arm up. (After Darfur, will the goods supplied be sold off?) Want to say it's a genocide? Then get them out of there. That was the whole point of "Darfur." I have no idea what someone's thinking when they think they can scream "Genocide!" and still act as though all that needs to be done is for the area to be policed. If it's genocide, get them out of there. Start putting pressure on your represenatives to open the borders and take them in. I mean, what's the alternative?

They're saying it's a genocide. Are you going to police from here until eternity? A genocide isn't something that strikes me as "mediation time." If someone wants to extinguish a population, they want to extinquish it. That doesn't change tomorrow just because you put some boots and guns on the ground. What is that? What Gore Vidal calls Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace?
Is the only way we resolve conflicts with violence?

If a genocide is going on, you don't need to set up patrols (that will only work some of the time at best). You get the people out of there. Which is what the world should have done prior to WWII. Instead, governments turned their backs and covered their ears.

Rwanda was a tragedy. Madeline Albright wants to say she waited too long to send in force. The same woman Colin Powell had to tell that the American military wasn't "toy soliders." Madeline Albright's answers were apparently do nothing or send in force. Is that really all we can do? Are those are only options?

Calling force "peacekeeping force" doesn't change it from being "force." Do we have no way of using peaceful solutions? Like we said in "Darfur" -- it's really easy to just send "toy soldiers" and act like whatever happens to them is fair game. It's really easy to respond to force with force. There may be times when you use force.

But is this one? If there's a genocide going on, force won't stop it. Force will mean using force for years and years. Get the victims out of the country. Everyone should open their borders to the victims, every country. But it's easier to send out soldiers and say "Oh, I took care of it!" then it is to actually do something. Opening the borders to refugees is helping.

I expect a little more thought from The Nation. But maybe it's time for all the ones who spoke out against war on Iraq to prove they're not weak-willed and that they can use force too! Just like the Bully Boy!

But hey, we can use force and we don't need to worry about an occupation, right? Bully Boy's never tempted to occupy anything.

Be sure to check out Like Maria Said Paz for Elaine's thoughts. And tomorrow on KPFA's The Morning Show Robert Jensen is going to address race and racism.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Gore Vidal (guest or one of his speeches) on KPFA's The Morning Show Wednesday

Tuesday and can you believe how hot it is already? Let's kick things off with Democracy Now!

Video May Tie Rumsfeld to Abu Ghraib Abuses
Court martial proceedings have begun for an Army sergeant accused of using military dogs to threaten detainees at Abu Ghraib. The trial of Sgt. Santos Cardona may expose who within the Pentagon's chain of command ordered soliders to abuse and torture detainees at the Iraqi prison. For the first time Major General Geoffrey Miller is expected to testify about what happened at the prison. Until now Miller has refused to publicly speak about his role overseeing interrogations at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. Meanwhile it has now been revealed that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld directly communicated with Miller and other senior defense officials by video-teleconference about interrogation matters in November and December 2003. Lawyers for Sgt. Cardona are attempting to obtain copies of these videoconferences to use as their defense.

Rumsfeld was in the loop, as everybody knew all along. And now there's a chance we might see exactly what he told Miller. But after Congress screwed up questioning Sanchez, who knows what will happen in court. You know about that right? From Rebecca's "flashpoints" where she summarized janis karpinski's recent interview by Dennis Bernstein on KPFA's Flashpoints:

1 key point was on the testimony of general sanchez where he told congress he didn't know anything about the photographs. karpinski: 'but nobody asked him the real important question' "did you know anything about the authorizations for the techniques that we saw in the photographs?" because he would have to say yes, if he were telling the truth.'

Bush Warns of "Erosion of Democracy" in Venezuela & Bolivia
President Bush warned Monday that Venezuela and Bolivia are suffering from what he described as an "erosion of democracy." Bush's comments come a week after the U.S. cut off military sales to Venezuela and three weeks after Bolivia announced it would nationalize its natural gas resources. Bush said he had a message for Venezuela, Bolivia and other nations in the hemisphere. President Bush: "I am going to continue to remind our hemisphere that respect for property rights and human rights is essential for all countries in order for there to be prosperity and peace. I'm going to remind our allies and friends in the neighborhood that the United States of America stands for justice; that when we see poverty, we care about it and we do something about it; that we care for good -- we stand for good health care. I'm going to remind our people that meddling in other elections is -- to achieve a short-term objective is not in the interests of the neighborhood."

You know Venezuelans think they have a democratic society. I don't know much about Bolivia. But for anyone who's forgotten, Bully Boy backed a coup to oust Hugo Chavez in 2002. They got him out of office and were declaring it was voluntarily (sounds like Haiti, doesn't it?) but the people didn't accept it. Sounds like Chavez is pretty popular with the people who elected him. Meanwhile, if Bully Boy was impeached tomorrow the only one sobbing in this country would probably be Joe Lieberman. Lieberman would probably ask him, "Just because you've been impeached doesn't mean you'll stop kissing my forehead, does it?"

Day of Action Organized to Save Public Access & Net Neutrality
In media news, a national coalition of community media organizations is organizing a day of action to save public access television and protect net neutrality. Protests are planned for Wednesday in New York City, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco. Protest organizers are calling on Congress to reject the COPE Bill which would effectively end what is known as "net neutrality" the concept that Internet users should be able to access any web content without restrictions of limitations imposed by their internet service provider. Another provision of the bill would cut back the obligation of cable TV companies to devote channels to public access and fund the facilities to run them.

Elaine and I are just putting in the third one as a public service announcement because it's an important issue. (Nina and Tony are taking part and, fingers crossed, me too.)

Hope you caught Democracy Now! today, but if you missed it, you missed Arundhati Roy. Here's a part of the interview, "Arundhati Roy on India, Iraq, U.S. Empire and Dissent:"

ARUNDHATI ROY: But I must say that while Bush was in Delhi, at the same time on the streets were -- I mean apart from the protests, there were 60 widows that had come from Kerala, which is the south of India, which is where I come from, and they had come to Delhi because they were 60 out of the tens of thousands of widows of farmers who have committed suicide, because they have been encircled by debt. And this is a fact that is simply not reported, partly because there are no official figures, partly because the Indian government quibbles about what constitutes suicide and what is a farmer. If a man commits suicide, but the land is in his old father's name, he doesn't count. If it's a woman, she doesn't count, because women can't be farmers.
AMY GOODMAN: So she counts as someone who committed suicide, but not as a farmer who committed suicide.
AMY GOODMAN: Tens of thousands?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Tens of thousands. And then, anyway, so these 60 women were there on the street asking the Indian government to write off the debts of their husbands, right? Across the street from them, in a five-star hotel were Bush's 16 sniffer dogs who were staying in this five-star hotel, and we were all told that you can't call them dogs, because they are actually officers of the American Army, you know. I don't know what the names were. Sergeant Pepper and Corporal Whatever. So, it wasn't even possible to be satirical or write black comedy, because it was all real.
AMY GOODMAN: Didn't President Bush visit Gandhi's grave?
ARUNDHATI ROY: He visited Gandhi's grave, and first his dogs visited Gandhi’s grave. Then, you know, Gandhians were, like, wanting to purify it. And I said, “Look, I don't mind the dogs. I mind Bush much than the dogs.” But Gandhi’s -- you know, obviously one can have all kinds of opinions about Gandhi. It's not universal that everybody adores and loves him, but still he stood for nonviolence, and here it was really the equivalent of a butcher coming and tipping a pot of blood on that memorial and going away. It was -- you know, there was no room left, as I said, for satire or for anything, because it was so vulgar, the whole of it. But I have to say the Indian mainstream media was so servile. You know, you had a newspaper like the Indian Express saying, "He is here, and he has spoken." I'm sure he doesn't get worshipped that much even by the American mainstream press, you know. It was extraordinary.

"War Got Your Tongue?" Arundhati Roy always uses her voice. Let her inspire you because she's pretty amazing.

As for "It was extraordinary," it always is when Bully Boy's attempting to twist reality and try to make it something it's not. Extraordianary is also what Bully Boy's trying to do -- act like all is going well in Iraq and getting better. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Chaos and violence continue.
Didn't Bully Boy say corner turned?
The news didn't make it to Iraq apparently.
Throughout the country, bombs and drive-bys continued.
In Baghdad,
CNN notes the death of Ahmed Ali Hussein (professor at the University of Technology). The Associated Press notes a car bomb "at the entrance to a police station" that resulted in the death of at least five. CBS and the AP note the death, from a drive-by shooting, of a cigarette vendor. Three elderly people were shot dead -- "one of whom was blind, and another disabled." The AP notes that bombs claimed the lives of many and estimates that at least 23 died across Iraq today.
AFP notes that three corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes Hani Saadoun, one of the three found -- Saaoun had been twelve-years-old and was found "dumped ... bullet hole to his head and another through his chest .. . He had been whipped with cables, tormented by electric drills and his body dragged through the streets behind a car." Again, twelve-years-old, one of at least three corpses discovred in Baghdad today.

Reuters reports that four corpses were found ("handcuffed, blindfolded and shot dead") in Ain al-Tamur. In Kiruk, as noted by Sandra Lupien on KPFA's The Morning Show and by the Associated Press, high school teacher Nazar Qadir was killed in a drive-by shooting. The AP and CBS note a drive-by "near Baqouba" that resulted in, as Sandra Lupien noted on KPFA's The Morning Show, the death of three "Iraqi laborers." A second drive-by in Baquba resulted in the death of three more.
In, Balad Ruz,
CNN notes the death of a child ("and wounded another person") following a roadside bomb exploding "outside a courthouse." AFP reports that in Mosul, "a family of blacksmiths" were the fictims of a drive-by with four being killed and one wounded -- a second drive by claimed the life of a former Baath party official.
Reuters notes that two were wounded in Najaf from "four mortar rounds."
In other developments in Iraq, the
AFP notes that Hussein Shahristani, newly installed as the Iraqi Oil Minister, is already doing the job that corporations have been waiting for (addressing the concerns that led the US to get nervous about the previous Iraqi prime minister): he's welcoming them and planning to "launch wide-raning contracts with international oil companies."
Outside of Iraq?
Today in London,
KUNA reports, Hero Ibrahim Ahmad addressed the Women in Business International Conference -- Ahmad is "wife of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani."
In the United States, the
Associated Press notes that the White House has "played down prospects of major troop withdrawals from Iraq in the near future." Also in the United States, Marilyn Elias reports (for USA Today) on a link a health survey has noted between PTSD and physical health in Iraq veterans. The survey of close to 3,000 soldiers who had been back in the United States for at least one year found that "17% of the soldiers had PTSD symptoms." And finally, Australia's ABC notes that Cindy Sheehan is attending a peace conference in Australia and urging Australians to send the message to John Howard that he works for them.

Be sure to check out Like Maria Said Paz for Elaine's take on things. So how was your day? My day was pretty cool. Nina made a spinach salad (Ma gave her the recipe) and it was pretty good.
We've been listening to the Dixie Chicks' Taking The Long Way. That's pretty cool and you should check it out. My favorite song right now, and it's a tough call, is probably "Voice Inside My Head" but I like the whole CD. I also like the first song, "The Long Way Around." That's real cool too and reminds me a little of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain."

Now here's the new content at The Third Estate Sunday Review from Sunday:

A Note to Our Readers -- Jim's note
Editorial: Here it comes, here it comes again -- watch out for Operation Happy Talk!
TV Review: Will & Grace -- goodbye, good riddance -- really bad ending to a funny show. Check out Ava and C.I.'s opening which tells you some things that the show could have done and should have.
Senate plays "Don't Spook the Spook" with Michael Hayden -- Hayden the Turtle.
"Can an unindicted co-conspirator remain at the White House? Personally, I don't think so." -- who's talking to Fitzgerald?
Into the e-mails -- we each get a question and answer it.
Laura Flanders spoke with Penny Lang about the importance of music and much more -- Dad didn't know Penny Lang and he usually knows about everyone even if he doesn't know their music. He really liked her voice.
Radio highlights for Sunday -- if you missed 'em, you can catch them via the archives
"We were all wrong!" Not so fast -- no, everyone wasn't wrong and this is a feature to try to note people who were right.

That's it for me tonight. Gore Vidal on tomorrow's The Morning Show on KPFA. Check it out.

Monday, May 22, 2006

It's a Monday

Monday, Monday . . . can't trust that day -- like the Mamas and the Papas sang. Memorial Day's coming up and Ma asked me what special thing I had planned. I go, I just want to sit around and listen to some tunes. Dad goes, "Ah, my son!" :D

When Elaine was a guest at Christmas, Dad loved it best because she loves music so much. It was his excuse to pull out every vinyl album he has -- even the ones they didn't listen to they'd end up discussing. I didn't realize it until Ma wrote about it at her site but I'm the first of the eight kids Dad's let mess with his vinyl. I'm second from the last of the litter and with my older brothers and sisters -- Dad always gave the oldest four a lecture and they passed it to the next two and may have passed it to the last two (me and my sister) but if they did, I didn't pay attention. I remember when I was 12, Dad got home from work and he walks in and I remember him just staring at me. It was a Pink Floyd record I was listening to and I hold up the cover and I go, "This is pretty cool." He sat right down on the floor with me and started explaining the whole record to me and telling me who played what.

C.I. gave me and Wally a ton of CDs and let us take all the cassettes when we were all together in California and I still haven't had time to listen to even like half of them. Dad's listened to them and keeps going, "Check out track __ on this one." :D

But there's always a lot to do. So Memorial Day, we'll have family and friends over and we'll all get in the living room in time for Democracy Now! because that's our holiday thing now -- and it can be your thing too. Seriously, watch it (or listen to it) with some friends and family and get the word out on the program. We've got five people who watch now regularly and who knows how many you could get? Plus, even the ones who only watch when they come over for the holiday know that the show's out there. So get the word out. Let's kick things off with Democracy Now!

Report: Iraq Is 'Disintegrating as Ethnic Cleansing Takes Hold'
British journalist Patrick Cockburn says Iraq is disintegrating as ethnic cleansing takes hold on a massive scale. On Sunday at least 24 people died including 13 at a Baghdad restaurant that was attacked by a suicide bomber.

The news just gets worse and worse but, like Wally pointed out in "THIS JUST IN! "FREEDOM IS MOVING!", Bully Boy keeps spewing nonsense. Bully Boy's going on and on about how democracy tip-toes around in baby steps. The occupation's now a three-year-old, shouldn't the terrible twos be over?

U.S.-Air Strike Kills 76 in Afghanistan; Up to 30 Civilians Killed
In Afghanistan, a U.S.-led air strike has killed at least 76 people. The BBC reports the dead included as many as 30 civilians including children. The bombing raid in Southern Afghanistan occurred shortly after midnight today. The U.S. military has denied reports of civilian casualties and claimed that all of the dead were members of the Taliban. The air strike occurred in a region which has recently seen some of the country’s fiercest fighting since the fall of the Taliban nearly five years ago.

Bully Boy's just made a mess of the whole world and that's really like what he's done his whole life. He's made a mess of Arbusto and Harken and waits around for one his father's friends to bail him out. There's no one to bail Bully Boy out this time. These are his mistakes and his tragedies and his crimes.

More on Bully Boy's mistakes, tragedies and crimes can be found in C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Chaos and violence continue -- despite the new cabinet.In fact, despite the new cabinet, Australia's ABC reports that new cabinet or not, John Howard, prime minister of Australia, "says the new Government in Baghdad will not affect any decision Australia will make about its troops and forces in Iraq." Australia's ABC also reports the Junichiro Koizumi, prime minister of Japan, is making noises about expanding the role of Japanese troops in Iraq. In what only the reality challegened could see as 'good news,' Tony Blair says that maybe, sort of, if everything's just right, British troops might, maybe, leave Iraq by the year 2010. As Blair was grand standing in Iraq, Canada's CBC notes that 108 British troops have died in Iraq. And on the new cabinet, Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) notes "US Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad . . . exerted strong pressure on Nouri al-Maliki" which continues the "muscular" thread John F. Burns noted Sunday.
Far from the myth of democracy and self-rule, as Reuters reported Friday, Hussain al-Shahristani did become the oil minister. You'd think Operation Happy Talk would trumpet the news but they probably don't want to draw too much attention to al-Shahristani's exile period (including the cheerleading of war) or, for that matter, his new post. As the Guardian notes "Another new day in Iraq: Events are stubbornly refusing to conform to the sunny scenarios Bush and Blair are so desperate to paint."
In Baghdad, bombs continued to be a regular feature. Reuters notes a car bomb "in southeastern Baghdad" as well as one "in the capital's New Baghdad district." The Associated Press counts the toll from the two bombing as at least nine dead and at least thirteen wounded while estimating that, on Monday, before "parlimaent met for its first session" 17 Iraqis had died from either car bombs or shootings. Killed by gunfire, the Associated Press reports, was "the general director of the youth ministry." KUNA notes a roadside bomb which killed four Iraqi police officers.
In Samarra, the Associated Press reports that "a police colonel" was shot to death.Reuters notes three killed in Baquba. The Associated Press notes, also in Baquba, that "an employee of a cell phone company" was killed. In Jbela, Reuters notes a roadside bomb took the life of at least three and wounded at least six. And a the corpse of a police officer was found, the Associated Press notes, "in the Aziziya area, south of Baghdad." In Baghdad, CNN reports, nine corpses were found.

I came in late on WBAI's Wakeup Call this morning and don't know if Deepa Fernandes had the day off or was sick. But I didn't hear her. I thought I heard Bernard White but then someone mentioned him by name as I was coming into the room so I guess that wasn't him. They, two men, were talking to the guys who made the documentary Loose Change. I read about that at
Kat's site when she was writing about KPFA's Guns and Butter but even though that was like eleven days ago, I still hadn't had time to check it out. How interesting was it?

I was thinking, "If I call off from work, I can finish listening."

The guys who made the documentary don't accept the official 9/11 story and I think that's probably not a minority position. There are too many questions. Like why did John Ashcroft stop flying commercial jets in the summer of 2001 to name just one. Or like the failure to do what you would do at any crime scene. It was pretty riveting. I'd like to go to the archives and listen to the part I missed but I'm not sure I'll have time this week. There's a lot of stuff going on and I need to get the yard done since we'll be having friends and family over for Memorial Day. (If Dad reads this, no, you didn't ask me to do that. But Tony and I are going to try to knock it out on Friday so leave it alone and relax. We're knocking his folks' yard out on Thursday.) (And if Dad does read this, Dark Side of the Moon was the record of his I was listening to when I broke the kids-stay-away-from-my-record-collection rule. :D)

Check out Rebecca's "the ruth & elijah report," Ma's "Cole slaw in the Kitchen" (that really does taste good, I don't like cole slaw but I liked the one she made last), Betty's "The blonde brain of Thomas Friedman" and Kat's "Kat's Korner: Springsteen's Seeger Sessions." And be sure to check out Like Maria Said Paz for Elaine's thoughts.