Friday, May 12, 2006

"And here it is 2006, and the matter has not gotten better"

Mike's over the chicken pox, thankfully. He blogged through it and is blogging tonight, so please visit Mikey Likes It!

"Bush's Approval Rating Sinks to 29%" (Democracy Now!):
And President Bush's approval rating has hit another new low. According to a poll by Harris Interactive, just 29% of Americans believe the President is doing a good job. Another poll tracking views on the President and the outlook for the United States led the New York Times to conclude: "Americans have a bleaker view of the country's direction than at any time in more than two decades."

Seems like a week or two ago, we were hearing how his poll numbers had to go up because they couldn't get any lower. They just got lower. What could save him at this point? Nothing. Another terrorist attack will not cause the country to rally around him. Instead, the reaction will be more hostility and cries of "Impeach!" immediately because the fact that he's done nothing to secure the country is well documented. It would be like the reaction after Hurrican Katrina. Most people will say, "See, he has been doing a bad job." Another war? No. He's not trusted. He's hidden the coffins returning from Iraq but the country's starting to feel it, starting to get it. He has no tricks left to play at this point.

I don't doubt that his poll numbers could bounce up a little at some point but he should be preparing himself for the fact that, whether they stay the same or change, he is going down in history as the worst person to occupy the White House.

Richard Nixon was the modern marker. After Nixon disgraced the country with his actions, we were all supposed to have learned (but we didn't) and that was going to be the standard by which others were judged. Along comes George to lower the bar.

"Bush Admin. Stonewalls Questions on Latest NSA Revelations" (Democracy Now!):
The Bush administration has responded to the latest in the domestic spy scandal with near silence. At the White House, President Bush declined to address Thursday’s report the National Security Agency was creating a database of phone call records with the help of three of the country's largest telecom companies. The President said only that the spy program was lawful -- but did cite any constitutional or legal authority to back up his claim. At another press conference, CIA Director nominee Michael Hayden, who headed the NSA at the time the spy program was implemented, said he would not discuss any specifics. Hayden made the comments after he unexpectedly cancelled meetings with Senators to discuss his nomination. On Capitol Hill, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Arlen Specter announced he would call officials from the three telecom companies -- AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth -- accused of helping the government spy on US citizens. Congressmember Maurice Hinchey repeated his calls for a full investigation.

I'm curious what Joe Klein will say. Not because I value Klein's opinion, I don't, but because it will be interesting to see how he tries to justify the latest revelation after dismissing earlier NSA revelations. He's already broken down the law and, as C.I. pointed out, this isn't the end of the spying on American citizens. There's more that we don't know.

I think we'll find out a bit more before November. When USA Today breaks a big story, you know every other publisher/editor has to be embarrassed. USA Today is known for it's easy-reader approach, not for investigative journalism. But they got the story. (Actually, Leslie Cauley got the story.)

On this topic, I wanted to pull a section of the discussion Democracy Now! had on it today.

Three Major Telecom Companies Help US Government Spy on Millions of Americans" (Democracy Now!):
TIM SHORROCK: What the USA Today reported yesterday was that they're turning this awesome system they have worldwide to listen in on calls, and they're turning that whole system on to the United States. These are United States citizens within the United States they are putting into this database. This is what's really dangerous about this, and what the New York Times reported back in December was that they were listening to United States citizens talking to foreigners. Now, they're building a database out of U.S. citizens talking to U.S. citizens.
AMY GOODMAN: Although they're saying that it's not as if they're listening to the conversations. This is just taking down the numbers.
TIM SHORROCK: Well, I think the whole purpose of data mining is to build profiles of people that you use for later surveillance. Like Ryan was just saying, they might build a record on someone and then go to the FISA court and tap their phone, after they decide that this person is a terrorist suspect or something that they're talking to. So, I, you know, take that with a grain of salt. Also, I think the record of mendacity of this Bush administration on any number of issues, particularly this war, is great, and it's very difficult to believe what they say on this.
They build these databases to create profiles. They use them to predict future activities, future calls people might make, future relationships people might make, and then they use that for other kinds of information, and, of course, the U.S. government, other databases have plenty of information on us as U.S. citizens, of, you know, buying habits. They can go to credit card records, see what you buy, all this kind of thing. And so, they can plug all this in, build profiles, and that's -- you know, I think that's what's got Republicans and, you know, of course, Democrats, people of all stripes upset about this, is that this is a violation of FISA, it's a violation of our privacy laws and it's a violation of the Constitution.

C.I. had a great comment on these revelations when we were on the phone, comparing it to when the movie Dick is winding down and many of Richard Nixon's abuses are being uncovered (and then covered) by the press, the mother of Kirsten Dunst's character says something like, "I never knew it went so far." I think that's where we are. People's eyes are popping open.

Mike just called. We'd already picked out headlines. But he wanted us to pick five songs that spoke to us this week. I've been listening to a mix CD Jess made for a number of us. It's various tracks from various albums he enjoys. So I'll pick Cass Elliot covering Laura Nyro's "He's a Runner." You can get that on The Complete Cass Elliot Solo Collection 1968-1971. (I recommend it. It's two discs of everything Cass ever released as a solo act plus some unreleased tracks. If you're a Cass fan, I am, from the Mamas and the Papas, you really should check out this CD.) I'd also pick "Roger and Out" from Neil Young's new CD Living With War (which Kat reviewed here). Ben Harper. What song? I listen to Both Sides of the Gun religiously. Any song will do. I love them all. "I Have Seen the Rain" off Pink's I'm Not Dead Yet. I can't believe Mike's put me on the spot like this (I can pick one song easily but trying to think of five means thinking of twenty and having to pare them down to five isn't easy). I just told myself that I'd pick an Afghan Whigs song but all of my favorites, I'm realizing, have titles I don't know. For instance, is it "True Love" or "True Love Travels Down a Gravel Road" or "Gravel Road"? I'm too lazy to hunt down the EP. I'll go with Melanie's "Peace Will Come (According to Plan)." That should be five.

Have you been following the news on Iraq? If not, read the following and, if so, read it and see if you heard all the details today.

"Iraq snapshot" ("Democracy Now: NSA discussion, Cindy Sheehan & Elaine Johnson address the war," The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence.
Sabrina Tavernise noted, Thursday "was . . . the deadliest day for the American military in a month, with the deaths of seven service members and the announcement of an eighth death that had occurred on Tuesday." This did not include the death of four marines on Thursday when, as reported by the Associated Press, a "tank rolled off a bridge into a canal" resulting in the drowning deaths of four marines.
Thursday was also the day that Nikola Radovanovic denied that Bosnia had shipped "
200,00 small arms to Iraq in a secret and non-trasnperanet fashion" (China's Xinhua).
Amnesty International has made the charges that Radovanovic (Defense Minister of Bosnia) was denying. The charges come in a report on how the transfer of arms threatens human rights.
Today? The
Shia party Islamic Virture has withdrawn from cabinet negotiations. The BBC notes that party spokesperson Sabah al-Saadi has "criticised what he said were external pressures from the US ambassador in Iraq." A joint story by CBS and AP, identifying the party as Fadhila, notes that the criticism also includes the assertion that "the Cabinet selection process was being dictated by personal interests and pressure by the United States that ran counter to the spirit of national unity." As cabinet negotiations continue to fail to meet the much touted timetable, Reuters reports that a "bomb in a parked car" went off outside the office of Dawa (the Shi'ite party of Nuri al-Maliki). The AFP notes that Nuri al-Maliki (Iraq's prime minister to be) continues to to tell "the ambassadors of Britain and Iran that the cabinet would be ready in the next 'few days.'" Al Jazeera notes that the real timetable, constitutional as opposed to the one al-Maliki has promised and missed, leaves only ten days to meet the "one-month constitutional deadline to present his cabinet to parliament."
In Baghdad,
CNN reports, an Iraqi soldier was killed in an attack on a convoy. Reuters notes the death of Ahmed Midhat Mahmoud and two of his bodyguards as a result of an ambush (Mahmoud was "the son of a senior judge). Kuna identifies Mahmoud as the "son of chief of Iraqi judicial council." The Associated Press notes that a police officer was killed with at least two more wounded as a result of drive by shootings. Road side bombs continued in Baghdad, at least one resulted in no deaths or casualties but another resulted in one police officer being wounded.
Associated Press notes that Basra saw violence as Sheik Khalil Ibrahim and his son were killed as they departed the Sunni Khudairi mosque.
Kuna reports that, in Tal Afar, an attack on a police patrol resulted in three being wounded (police officers) and two being killed (attackers).
In Dhuluiya,
the BBC notes, at least four Iraqi soldiers have died and at least seven civilians have been wounded as people clash with "Iraqi forces."
Throughout Iraq, corpses continued to turn up.
Reuters notes four ("military uniform, two of them beheaded") being discovered in Khan Bani Saad and one ("gunshot wounds to the head and . . . signs of torture) being discovered in Baghdad while KUNA also notes the discovery of a corpse in Sadr City ("blindfolded, with hands bound and the victim appears to have been shot dead."). Al Jazeera notes the kidnapping of Carlo Daccache "snatched on Friday in Baghdad by unidentified armed men."
In the United States, Congress member
John Murtha has told the Associated Press that he predicts America will brings its troops home "by 2007" as a result of the Bully Boy "bow[ing] to public pressure or [because] Democrats will have won control of the House of Representatives."
Finally, as
noted this morning on Democracy Now!, an event sponsored by CODEPINK and other organizations will take place Saturday and Sunday in DC:
Declare peace on Mother's Day with CODEPINK! We will be gathering in Washington DC for a 24-hour vigil outside the White House on May 13-14, and will be joined by amazing celebrity actresses, singers, writers, and moms, including Cindy Sheehan, Patch Adams, and Susan Sarandon! Bring your mother, children, grandmothers, friends, and loved ones. We will be honoring the mothers of the fallen by sending them organic roses. Click here to send your rose! We're also writing letters to Laura Bush to appeal to her own mother-heart, turning them into a book, "Letters to Laura." For event info click here, read our blogs and check out our online store for gift ideas.

I hope you read Cedric's "Different stuff" and Kat's "Guns & Butter and the crappy 1000th issue of Rolling Stone." My favorite of the week of Wally's is "THIS JUST IN! HILLARY CLINTON LOVES THE BOYZ WHO CHEAT ON HER! ."

By the way, C.I. noted ER last night in "And the war drags on . . . (Indymedia Roundup)" (as well as in the column in Polly's Brew Sunday). The ground is shifting and that's because we're making it happen. We all need to use our voices. I did catch the episode. Parminder Nagra plays Dr. Neela Rasgotra and she has already spoken out against the war on the show. Her husband Michael was in Iraq (as a doctor). Last night, she got the news that he had died. It was pretty powerful and I get . . . my throat chokes up just thinking about it. Nagra deserves an Emmy for her performance. The war came home for one show. If you're a community member, I hope you remembered to watch.

Bully Boy's illegal war has many costs that go beyond the gas pump.

"Reality Check" ("Mothers Say No To War: Peace Activists Plan Mother's Day Protest Outside White House,"Democracy Now!):
AMY GOODMAN: Elaine Johnson, what is the response of other military families to you, to your call for the troops to come home now?
ELAINE JOHNSON: I have their fullest support of bringing the troops home. Every time I do different rallies and different events, I get emails and phone calls, you know, telling me to keep up the good work, because we all support our troops. We just don't support this war, because when I met President Bush back in ’03, there was nothing -- he couldn't tell me why my son was killed, why the soldiers are over there. And here it is 2006, and the matter has not gotten better. It's just gotten worse, so he still can't tell me anything, why our kids are getting killed. But, you know, we know why. It's because of the oil. Like Cindy was saying, the greediness of him and his colleagues is for oil.