Friday, October 14, 2005

Democracy Now and thoughts on Scott

Here are two items from Democracy Now! that Mike and pikced to discuss.

Bush Videoconference With Troops Staged (Democracy Now!):
It has emerged that President Bush's nationally televised videoconference with US troops in Tikrit, Iraq on Thursday was scripted beforehand. The White House had painted the event as an impromptu conversation with the troops, but video from the satellite feed before the event gave lie to those claims. The ten US soldiers and one Iraqi were coached in their answers before the event by Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Allison Barber. She stood at the White House podium where Bush would later stand, she read part of his opening remarks and then proceeded to outline the questions Bush would ask. At times, she suggested phrasing for the soldiers' responses. With the referendum on Iraq's constitution just days away and President Bush's popularity plummeting, the White House clearly wanted this event to give the impression that the US plan in Iraq was moving forward.
President Bush, "You defeat a backwards dark philosophy with one that is hopeful. And that hopeful philosophy is one that is based on universal freedom. I'm very impressed at the Iraqi government to have a constitution that attracts Sunnis, Shias and Kurds. They worked hard to get a constitution and now the people of Iraq are going to get to vote again, on a constitution."
During the brief videoconference, the handpicked soldiers appeared to fawn over the president. At one point, one told him,"We began our fight against terrorism in the wake of 9/11, and we're proud to continue it here." But a telling moment came when Bush asked the soldiers to comment about their interactions with Iraqi civilians and Captain David Williams could only cite a second hand account:
Capt. David Williams, "Sir, I was with my Iraqi counterpart in the city of Tikrit last week, and he was going around talking to the locals. And from what he told me that the locals told him, the Iraqi people are ready and eager to vote in this referendum."
The videoconference was set in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, which Bush lightly acknowledged he could not safely visit. Interestingly, Tikrit was the backdrop for many of Saddam Hussein's propaganda videos. There was one Iraqi present for the videoconference, Sergeant major Akeel, whose only role was to tell President Bush "I like you."
When it emerged that the event was staged, reporters grilled White House spokesperson Scott McClellan, asking him directly about the coaching:
MR. MCCLELLAN: I'm sorry, are you suggesting that what our troops were saying was not sincere, or what they said was not their own thoughts?
Q: Nothing at all. I'm just asking why it was necessary to coach them.
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, in terms of the event earlier today, the event was set up to highlight an important milestone in Iraq's history, and to give the President an opportunity to, once again, express our appreciation for all that our troops are doing when it comes to defending freedom, and their courage and their sacrifice.

I'm reminded of a passage from a Bruce Springsteen song ("Reason to Believe"):

Struck me kind of funny
Seems kind of funny, sir, to me
Still at the end of every hard day
People find some reason to believe.

The White House certainly found a reason to believe that things hadn't changed and they could still pass off a lie as truth. This must have really stung. Reality rising up to slap them in the face.

If they needed a sign of how much things had changed, they got it in the reaction to their staged "conference" didn't work out the way they thought it would.

Did you notice that Scott tried to hand behind the soliders? That's a trick Mary Matalin likes to pull on TV as well. There was Scott pulling a Mary. "Are you saying they weren't sincere. We support the troops." That's the spin Scott tries to put in place. The issue wasn't the troops and Scott knew that. But he uses Bully language to attempt intimidation. He should have been called to the carpet for that.

McClellan Says Helen Thomas Against War on Terror (Democracy Now!):
Meanwhile, during the same White House press briefing, McClellan declared that veteran correspondent Helen Thomas opposes what he called the broader war on terrorism. His comment came in response to her critical questioning of Bush's Iraq policy. Eventually ABC's Terry Moran jumped in defending Thomas. Here is some of the exchange:
McCLELLAN: Well, you have a very different view of the war on terrorism, and I'm sure you're opposed to the broader war on terrorism. The President recognizes this requires a comprehensive strategy, and that this is a broad war, that it is not a law enforcement matter. Terry.
TERRY MORAN: On what basis do you say Helen is opposed to the broader war on terrorism?
McCLELLAN: Well, she certainly expressed her concerns about Afghanistan and Iraq and going into those two countries. I think I can go back and pull up her comments over the course of the past couple of years.
MORAN: And speak for her, which is odd.
McCLELLAN: No, I said she may be, because certainly if you look at her comments over the course of the past couple of years, she's expressed her concerns --
THOMAS: I'm opposed to preemptive war, unprovoked preemptive war.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- she's expressed her concerns.

Isn't it interesting how Helen Thomas is Scott McLellan's big issue? He makes a fool out of himself but he does change the topic and that's why he's a better lap dog for Bully Boy than even Barney. If Bully Boy could, you get the feeling, he'd carry his Scotty around like a clutch purse too.

Sometime ago, in Canada, Bully Boy met an assistant named Scott and said something like, "You're Scott is prettier than mine." I always heard that in Bully Boy speak: "He sure is purdy." Said with a leer. "Dueling Banjos" (or whatever the Deliverance song is) playing in the background.

Helen Thomas is a brave journalist and there was probably a point to attacking Helen besides changing the topic.Possibly to try to intimidate the the journalists. But maybe things have changed so much that it's not currently possible or maybe it's just that Scott's no Ari?

I will say this for Scott, he could be a hand model. His hands look so soft he could do print layouts for Jergen's. You rarely see hands that look so soft. Forget "on the man" at the end of that sentence because they look softer than a woman's as well. I don't know if that's a genetic trait in his family or if he just takes care of his hands but they certainly look soft. Rebecca has great hands. C.I. has great fingers. (Great because they're long.) But I've never seen anyone with hands as soft looking as Scott's.

I certainly don't have great looking hands. So I'll give Scott that, he may have the softest looking hands in the country. If he doesn't end up in prison over some administration abuse of power, he should consider becoming a hand model in 2009.

Remember to check Mike's Mikey Likes It! for his take.

C.I. e-mailed a thing by Cindy Sheehan and I want to note that.

"I Have Arrived; I Am Home" (Common Dreams):
I was honored and humbled to be in the presence of holy man, Thich Nhat Hahn, today at MacArthur Park in a very Hispanic neighborhood in Los Angeles.
Tha^y, (teacher) as he is known, is a Buddhist monk who was active during the Vietnam War years bringing peace and reconciliation to the countries of North and South Vietnam. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr. He walks with an aura of peace and acceptance radiating from him.
Every day we do things, we are things that have to do with peace. If we are aware of our life..., our way of looking at things, we will know how to make peace right in the moment, we are alive. Thich Nhat Hahn.
In a speech I delivered at the Riverside Church in NYC on the one year anniversary of Casey's death, which was also the 37 th anniversary of MLK, Jr's death, I said: We must all do one thing for peace each day. I now know that is not enough. We must live peace and embody peace if we want peace on earth. Our entire lives must be for peace. Not just one activity a day.
Every step is peace.

It's the weekend. For those fortunate enough to be off this weekend, I hope they find a quiet moment to reflect because there is a great deal happening and we can recognize that if we take a moment or two to absorb it.

"Peace Quotes" (Peace Center):
Wars are not acts of God. They are caused by man, by man-made institutions, by the way in which man has organized his society. What man has made, man can change.
Frederick Moore Vinson, Speech at Arlington National Cemetery (Memorial Day, 1945)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Iraq's proposed constitution and Valerie Plame

Mike's interviewing Ruth's granddaughter Tracey tonight so I told him I'd try to analyze both items from Democracy Now! and he could just post them at his site if he was tired by the time he got the interview typed up.

Iraqis Agree to Last-Minute Constitution Change (Democracy Now!)
In Iraq, negotiators have agreed to a last-minute change that will effectively allow for the constitution to be redrafted after elections are held in December. The deal was aimed to encourage Sunni support for the draft constitution, which will be voted on in a nation-wide referendum Saturday. The agreement would create a panel in the next parliament with the power to propose broad new revisions to the constitution. U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad took part in negotiating the deal, which the New York Times called "a major victory for American officials."

Everything's a major victory for the New York Times. They pioneered Operation Happy Talk. They pimped the war and they is more than Judy Miller. Tom Friedman was just as bad as Miller only he told boring tales about himself in the middle of his pimp the war columns.

Happiness is always just around the corner at the New York Times. Elections will change everything! Something's always "a major victory for American officials."

Let's do what the paper doesn't, let's think about the Iraqis for a moment. So the constitution changes yet again. You want people to go out and vote on what's expected to be a day of violence. Risk their lives for what exactly?

For a constitution that's not even what it will be in a few months? This is no "treat" for the Iraqis. But it does let Bully Boy keep his timetable.

Report: 'Scooter' Libby Misled Prosecutors In CIA Leak Case (Democracy Now!)
Speculation is growing in Washington that Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby and President Bush's top advisor Karl Rove could soon be indicted by a federal prosecutor investigating the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Investigative Journalist Murray Waas is reporting in the National Journal that Libby failed to tell the grand jury about a discussion he had with New York Times reporter Judith Miller in June 2003 - weeks before Plame's name first appeared in the press. Federal Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald only learned of the discussion after Miller announced last week that she had discovered a set of notes on the conversation. Fitzgerald, who has been investigating the case for nearly two years, has now asked Miller to testify again today before the grand jury. Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal reports Fitzgerald's pursuit now suggests he might be investigating not a narrow case on the leaking of the agent's name, but perhaps a broader conspiracy. The Journal reports at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group which was set up to sell the Iraq war to the American public. Libby and Rove were instrumental in the group. Plame's name was leaked only after her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, publicly revealed that the Bush administration had lied when it claimed Iraq was trying to purchase enriched uranium from the country of Niger in order to build nuclear weapons. Wilson has long accused the White House of outing his wife as an agent in an effort to smear him. We'll speak to Murray Waas in a few minutes.

So it's getting hot for the administration. What did they know? When did they know it? How far up does it go?

Did Miller really discover the notes? Or were they discovered for her? They were "found" by her, supposedly, in the D.C. office of the paper. Did someone find them and inform her they were being turned over?

I like Democracy Now! for many reasons but one thing that stand out from the item above is that they're not doing the dance other papers are doing. They're not saying "Valerie Wislon who sometimes went by the name Valerie Plame."

I also wonder if people have forgotten that CBS put a photo of her out over the airwaves. I believe that was The Evening News under Bob Schieffer. I wonder if CBS regrets that now?
I wondered at the time why they aired it to begin with.

NYT's Bill Keller keeps saying when the time is right, they'll write the story. But when is the time right? It wasn't the right time before the war to write stories stating the obvious fact that we were being lied to. So what's going to be the magical right time for the Times to write their Miller story?

I'm really tired tonight. I was typing while I was sitting up in bed and moved around to type on my stomach and must have fallen asleep. Rebecca phoned to ask me if I was feeling okay since I hadn't posted? I'm fine, just fell asleep. (Hopefully that's all. My left eye looks like I have pink eye but hopefully the redness is just from being tired.)

I guess I must have thought, "Okay, I'll just close my eyes for a second" but ended up fast asleep. Now my nose is stopped up and I'm looking at the time and can't believe how late it is.
Rebecca asked me to feature one of my favorite of Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts in this posts and so I've added the one that immediately came to mind to at the top of this.
Let me do a peace quote and I'll get this up and posted. My three favorite films with Shirley MacLaine are The Apartment, Irma La Duce and Sweet Charity. If you've seen Irma, you'll get a kick out of Irman la Dunce. Also be sure to read C.I. from this morning on 'femnist' Laura Bush.

Instead of a peace quote, I'm going to note something Krista e-mailed to share with the community:

"Viggo Mortensen Interview" (Nina Siegal, The Progressive):
Q: Are you hopeful about political change?
Mortensen: I think most Americans will look back on this period since 1980 as a morally bleak, intellectually fraudulent period of history. There will be a certain amount of shame, a feeling we were part of something wrong. People standing outside of this country can see this because it’s very obvious. It’s like looking at a spoiled brat, a kid who’s totally out of control, but because the parents are really rich and because they own the school, you have to put up with it. America is an empire in decay. But we don’t have to lash out and do damage on the way down. We can reverse some of the damage we’ve done. It’s possible.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

this and that

Mike and I are doing the same items.

Arrest Warrants Issued for Ex-Iraqi Officials
Also in Iraq, arrest warrants have been issued for several officials from the US-backed interim government of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. According to the Associated Press, five ministers -- including Allawi's defense minister Hazem Shalaan -- are among 28 ex-officials accused of misappropriating one billion dollars in military funds. Most of the officials have already fled the country.

So our puppet government was full of thieves? Hard to believe, I know, since Bully Boy and his cronies are so upstanding. When they saw Halliburton getting rich off the war did the exiles, I'm guessing that they shared Allawi's exile status, think, "There's money to be made here! We don't want to look like suckers?" Did they learn a lesson from our books?

So Military George craps out again? No surprise.

Why did we install Allawi to begin with. Forget that he was Chalabi's cousin, which told you more than you needed to know, did we just assume that the only smart Iraqi would be one who'd gone exile and lived in the West?

But we're not xenophobes.

Truly. Allawi was also a CIA asset at 1 point in his career. I'm sure that played a great deal in the decision.

New Poll: 59% of U.S. Wants Troops Out of Iraq
Meanwhile, a new CBS News poll shows that 59 percent of Americans want US troops to leave Iraq as soon as possible, even if the country is not completely stable, an increase from 52 percent last month. Iraqis are four days away from voting in a nation-wide referendum on a new constitution drafted by the transitional government.

But who cares, say the kill 'em all-ers, that's just the people. Who cares what the people want? We'll do what we want and they can just accept it.

That tends to be our government's m.o. these days. Doesn't always work out so well for them. Ask Frist or Delay or Karl Rove.

I don't think you have a democracy when the will of the people is ignored.

Bully Boy can call it "focus groups" or "polls" but this is America speaking. And where is the press in all of this? Hiding.

If you haven't read "Joint entry from Ava and C.I. on the TV reviews," you should. Ava and C.I. are discussing the TV reviews they write for The Third Estate Sunday Review and it's interesting to me even though I've seen them do it and know the process now.

A friend left a message at work and when I called her back she said I had to include her favorite lines that Ava and C.I. had written for a review. This is from their review "TV: Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey Reporting for Two Hours of Self-Love" about Jessica and Nick's "Troops" special:

Which is puzzling when you consider another fatality -- "God Bless America." Who knew it was an ode to orgasms?Watching little Jessie wet her lips and tousle her mane (as a person she makes a great little pony), we were left to wonder what that or heaving bossoms had to do with either God or a country. Simpson apparently learnt the song at Our Lady of Lap Dance.

"Peace Quotes" (Peace Center)
The pacifist's task today is to find a method of helping and healing which provides a revolutionary constructive substitute for war.
Vera Brittain, 1964

Monday, October 10, 2005

"Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."

Mike and I are doing the same items from Democracy Now! and one of the items was important enough to include even though we both heard about it today (on Democracy Now!) for the first time.

Thousands Take Part in Silent Peace March in LA (Democracy Now!)
In Los Angeles, thousands gathered on Saturday for a silent peace march led by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967 by Martin Luther King Jr. Among those in attendance was Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son in Iraq last year.

At LA Indymedia, there are a number of strong articles on this (thanks to C.I. for passing them onto me) and I'd especially recommend Open Mind's "Peace Walk with Thich Nhat Hanh - Part 1." In addition, C.I. recommended KPFA Evening News's Sunday broadcast. KPFA is a Pacifica station (I believe it's the original Pacifica station which should make the oldest public radio station in the United States) out of Berkeley, California.

Open Mind notes: "Buddhist monks and nuns, progressive left and religious peace organizations and other seekers after knowledge met yesterday in MacArthur Park for a meditation with Buddhist master Thich Naht Hanh that was intended to creat a peaceful state that will eventually translate into an end to war."

There are photos provided and it really was a sizeable turnout judging from the photos. My favorite photo is probably "Crowd Funnels Into Peace Walk" which is taken from behind the participants and it's such a huge mass with an open space in front of them which, my interpretation, represents the open space peace could bring. All the people present are channeling, or funneling, to a better place. That's what the photo represented to me.

And right now I'm listening to KPFA's archived broadcast. The silent march is at 13:21 and it was organized by Hanh who:

"brought together at least 3,000 people to oppose the war in Iraq. Anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan was among those who attended the event at MacArthur Park Hanh a 79 year old Vietnemese Zen master was an early opponent of the Vietnam war in the 1960s and was forced into exile in France where he lived in a monastery. He returned to his native Vietnam for the first time last April. Hanh said he organized the two hour peace walk as a gift to the people of Los Angeles."

So that's a bit more background on it. I really didn't do any research. I had intended to and I called C.I. to get some resources but the news broadcast was something C.I. already knew of and while we were on the phone, C.I. went to L.A. Indymedia and saw that they had coverage of the peace march. So thank you, always, to C.I.

Environmentalists Criticize Selection of IAEA For Nobel Prize (Democracy Now!)
A number of environmental groups and activists are criticizing the Nobel Peace Prize committee for awarding this year's Prize to the International Atomic Energy Agency and its chief Mohammed ElBaradei. The French group, Sortir du Nucleaire (Get Out of Nuclear) criticized the IAEA for "promoting" civilian nuclear plants. British commentator George Monbiot said the prize to the IAEA and its boss was a "reward for failure in an age of rampant proliferation." Greenpeace also criticized the selection.

On the above item, I feel like we're being sold nuclear power, as though there's this heavy push to make it palatable. I see that in the New York Times. I know Felicity Barringer had her say but I read the article and I clipped the article. Her say didn't cut it with me. There was nothing preventing her from presenting an alternative view. She made a choice not to. As a result, she was criticized by C.I.

When C.I. says "I could be wrong" it's not just empty words. The attitude at The Common Ills, on C.I.'s part, is "I've had my say and if the person I'm critiquing disagrees, they can have their say." I don't have a problem with that.

My problem was that she wanted to have her say, Barringer, after the article was no longer available and she presented her carefully selected excerpt that was not reflective of the article. Which is why I provided it to Gina and Krista to run in their round-robin.

But there seems to be a push for nuclear energy coming from a number of sources.

Now, something Mike and I both agreed needing noting was something we saw C.I. had noted at The Common Ills. Amy Goodman's grandmother passed away last week. At The Third Estate Sunday Review there was talk of should we do something or not? C.I.'s feeling was yes and I hope this isn't breaking any confidentiality but I believe C.I.'s noted a funeral before. At that funeral, and I'm being vague because I believe it's gone up at The Common Ills but I'm not sure, a huge number of people showed up to pay their respects but this did not include two supposed "good friends" of C.I.'s.

If they'd kept their mouths shut, no one would have known. C.I. wasn't able to speak to everyone present at the funeral or, later, at the house. There were too many people there. Add in that in grief situations a person often just goes through the motions (and C.I. was too busy making sure that the food was being brought out regularly and other smaller details which is something many people do to get through those situations).

So C.I. had no idea that two "good friends" who think nothing of calling C.I. at all hours didn't even show until the next day when one of the "friends" calls first thing the next day needing a favor while mentioning in passing that she didn't show for the funeral.

She told C.I. she knew it was going to be "painful" so she didn't want to add to C.I.'s worries.
I've know C.I. for years (since high school) and I've never seen C.I. so mad. C.I. had loaned this woman money over the years, loaned her family money over the years (including the woman's mother who never made any attempt to pay it back or even acknowledge it after she received it). When the "friend" had a car emergency (everything with that woman is an emergency), C.I. gave her money to buy a new car. This happened six months prior to the funeral and she still hadn't made any effort to repay it.

So C.I. was enraged that this "friend" didn't have the decency to show. Rebecca and I had flown in and were staying with C.I. so we heard about this during the hours we were helping address thank you cards to everyone who sent floral arrangements. We divided them up and there was someone else helping but I've honestly forgotten whom. But there were four of us and it probably took a full eight hours. Because we started early and planned to run them to the post office and grab lunch but the post office was now closed and we were talking dinner. During this Rebecca's grabbing the envelopes and going through them when she points out that not only did the "friend" not show, she didn't send a floral arrangement.

There were people who said awkward things and that will happen in situations like those. It's understandable. That didn't hurt C.I. What hurt C.I. was "friends" who didn't even acknowledge the death. It's better to fumble then to say nothing.

We were discussing this for several hours Saturday and finally had an idea for it when C.I. started getting calls from friends at CNN and had to break away to do the entry Saturday night.
After that, the ball got dropped because we were off on something else and hoping to pick it up later but then there were problems with posts going up and it became a nightmare.

I don't think anyone even remembered the planned feature. I didn't until I heard Democracy Now! today. I went to The Common Ills and C.I. had noted it already (at the request of Jordan, Ruth and Marcia but I bet it would have been noted even if no one had requested). So Mike and I were talking about that on the phone and we're both noting it here.

Amy Goodman provides a great deal to countless people. Her grandmother sounds like someone who was full of life and a pleasure to know.

"Sonia Bock 1897-2005: Amy Goodman Remembers Her Grandmother, a Woman of Three Centuries" (Democracy Now!)
Amy Goodman's grandmother, Sonia Bock, died October 5, 2005 at the age of 108. She was born in 1897, in Ruvno, Poland. She lived through the pogroms of Tsarist Russia, the Bolshevik revolution and the Holocaust.
Amy Goodman: I'd like to take this moment to thank everyone who wrote in last week to express sympathy on the loss of my grandmother. Sonia Bock died October 5, 2005 at the age of 108. Yes, she was indomitable: a woman of three centuries.
She was born in 1897, in Ruvno, Poland. She lived through Tsarist Russia, the Bolshevik revolution, the Holocaust. Though many in her family did not. Two of her brothers and their whole families perished. I remember my mother telling me the wail. The wail that went up in the bungalow colony that my grandparents my mom and her sister went to every summer. The wail when my grandmother got the news that her family had been killed. She came to America by boat in 1929. In 1930, she gave birth to my mother in Harlem with my grandfather, an orthodox rabbi.
In her fifties she contracted cerebral meningitis and was sent to a sanatorium in the Catskills. Not expected to live, she cut everyone's hair and was out in two years. She was an unusual mix of old fashioned in her views of women. "You must always be independent," she would say. "When your husband comes home meet him with a hug and supper, then give him the newspaper to read, but you should have already read it. Then discuss it with him. Communication is everything." She was the eternal student. She spoke four languages: Russian, Yiddish, Hebrew, English and was always taking conversation classes in French. At about 4 foot 10 inches tall, she was a pint size fireball. A life force. My heart. I'd like to share a poem that I also read when my father died. I don't know who wrote it:
Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not there. I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glints on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn rain. When you awaken in the morning s hush, I am the swift uplifting rush, of quiet birds in circling flight. I am the soft star that shines at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry. I am not there. I did not die.

Now for the peace quote and I think it embodies Amy Goodman's spirit and says a lot about her family.

"Peace Quotes" (Peace Center)
I swore never to be silent whenever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
Elie Weisel