Saturday, May 20, 2006

Michael Hayden, Khaled el-Masri

I always encourage readers to visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts and I'm sure they do. But if you missed Mike Thursday, please read "Surprise interview."

By the way, Mike and I are both blogging this morning. I had a date (which went quite well, thank you for your interest) last night and Mike and Nina had plans as well. We were on the phone at six o'clock trying to figure out how we'd be able to get posts up quickly when we decided, "Let's just post Saturday morning instead."

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

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

What is with this "personal decision" talk? First off, I thought the Bully Boy had already declared himself "The Decider." Is Hayden trying to usurp the Bully Boy and steal the title?
Second of all, procedures and guidelines (and laws) are in place to be followed. There's no "personal decision" making. The thing is supposed to run like clockwork.

I find Hayden disgusting. Sunny was listening to the Pacifica coverage of the hearing (Thursday) and, between sessions, I kept rushing over to hear bits and pieces. I found it very disappointing. To the point that I kept expecting someone to ask, "Do you need a break, General Hayden, to go to the bathroom?" To which he'd then reply, "I belive that would be better discussed in closing hearings this afternoon." Maybe if the questioneer was Ron Wyden (Democratic Senator from Oregon who did show some life, by the way), he'd follow up with, "Well do you think, if you needed to use the bathroom, you would need to do number one or number two?" Only to have Hayden reply, "I think we need to be very careful about the information we give out to our enemies." It was such a joke. (If Russ Feingold was present, I'm sure he did a wonderful job. He can usually be counted on. Sunny did ask me if he was there because she was impressed with one Democrat's questions, in addition to Wyden's, but I was in a session and she'd missed the name of the senator.)

Pacifica did a great job with the hearings. Larry Bensky and Mitch Jesserich anchored them. The guest who impressed Sunny and I the most was Chip Pitts. We were both listening and I had an hour before the evening session was due to start. When Pitts came on (and C.I. knows Pitts but I don't before anyone thinks I'm praising Pitts just because he's a friend, I don't know him, have never met him) we agreed that was the high point and shut down the computer after he was done. (Sunny, who'd been listening all morning, said that if it weren't for the analysis and the anchors, she couldn't have made it through the hearing -- due to the lack of spirit, spine and life on the part of the Democrats.)

I'm looking at my notes right now and realizing, they're brief, that I have no idea what most of this is about and should have written something while it was fresh. But let me note that Carl Levin had at least one good question (maybe more, but I heard a brief section of his exchange with Hayden). Levin asked, "Does that mean your answer to my question is yes?" I think that perfectly captures how Ollie North-like Hayden was. Pitts noted that Dianne Feinstein made a comment he wasn't sure anyone heard. Feinstein, according to Pitts, had asked at least one question regarding Guantanamo and, at one point afterwards, Feinstein said, "He didn't answer any of them." "Them" being her questions.

I don't care for Feinstein and I don't care for the way she conducts herself in hearings. She always plays it off as though she's just 'the little lady' making comments about how she's not a lawyer so blah, blah, blah. She's a "law maker." As a member of Congress, she's a law maker. She needs to take her position a lot more seriously. And if she felt her questions weren't answered, she needed to do something more than chuckle.

C.I. noted some impressions and this one captures Feinstein:

Such as DiFi who apparently has tried to drop the genteel mask of "miss diane" and come off like a beer commercial with remarks to the effect of "So that's all good." The "BURP" was, apparently, implied. (It's all good, DiFi.)

Captures Feinstein perfectly. "So that's all good"? It's all good, Feinstein? I laughed when I read "The 'BURP' was, apparently, implied."

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

I often tease Rebecca about being a slow starter in the mornings (which she is) but I see now why she's not a morning blogger. I've got the TV on (a rare thing) trying to see if anything's breaking since it's Saturday. (It's corporate news, so why did I even bother? If it was breaking, it wouldn't be noted unless someone died.) I'm drinking my coffee and trying to think of what else to write?

On the above item, it's a carry over of the Hayden hearings. It's another example of how a serious and needed discussion is shut down with the claims (false) of national security. al-Masri was wronged (putting it mildly) and he's not allowed to have his day in court because of "national security"? That's a stopper, isn't it?

Please read Rebecca's "the ruth & elijah report." I'm turning off corporate news and putting on some music. Dar Williams My Better Self is playing right now.

"Iraq snapshot" ("Democracy Now: Eduardo Galeano," The Common Ills):
Let's start with tomorrow. On Saturday, as the Associated Press and CBS note, the plan is "to swear in Iraq's new prime minister and Cabinet." The AP also notes rumors that Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister to be, "might appoint himself to head the two ministries until all parties can agree." Dropping back to yesterday, Italy's new prime minister, Romano Prodi, has declared the illegal Iraq war a "grave error" notes China's People's Daily Online. Also yesterday, details of the Pentagon's plan to blind drivers at checkpoints was covered by Reuters (and others). Reuters reports that Hussain al-Shahristani will be Iraq's new oil minister -- surprising only to those who didn't follow the "work" of the Iraq Foundation going back to before the illegal invasion. (Translation, war planners are dropping the war dance long enough for a dance of joy.)UNICEF's David Singh estimates "850,000 Iraqi children aged between six and 59 months" suffer "from chronic malnutrition" while the figure for those suffering from "actue malnutrition" is estimated to be 300,000. You didn't discover that in this morning's New York Times, but viewers of Austalia's ABC could see David Singh interviewed on The World Today.
On another Iraqi story that the mainstream media in the United States hasn't shown interest in, Jake Kovco's family (Lorriane and David Small, parents of Jake's wife Shelley Kovco) and the family of Juso Sinanovic (Jasmina Sinanovic -- daughter of Juso) spoke via "community station Radio RPH" reports the AAP which also notes that Mick Martin has "established an appeal for . . . [Jake Kovco's] widow Shelley to supplement what he says is her meagre Australian Defence Force pension."
Today has been a confusing one for the family of Naji al Noaimi -- diplomat with the United Arab Emirates who was kidnapped Tuesday in Baghdad. But he has been released.
In Baghdad today, as CBS and the AP note, a gun fight between resistance and police officers led to the deaths of at least five and the wounded of at least eight. Roadside bombs continued exploding. One resulted in the wounding of three Iraqis, Reuters noted. AP reported on a roadside bomb apparently intended for a police officer who was not at his home -- but his wife and two children were and both were wounded in the explosion. Another roadside bomb resulted in at least one US soldier being wounded when it went off near a convoy.
The Associated Press notes the discovery of four corpses in Baghdad ("bullet-ridden"; "kidnapped and tortured") offering a potential identification of one as the elementary school teacher who was kidnapped.
Six miles out of Kirkuk, police discovered a coprse ("gunshot wounds"; "bearing signs of torture) while in Kirkuk "Mohammed al-Iqabi, an employee of the northern state-oil company, was gunned down" Reuters reports. CNN reports that "U.S. military commanders have decided to send more U.S. troops to the Iraqi city of Ramadi" where the 'pacification' has not taken. The Associated Press notes that "more than 30 shops in a market in Diwaniyah" have been targeted and burned by arsonists.
KUNA notes that Bully Boy was on US television this morning (NBC's Today) and continues to blame his low approval ratings on the Iraq war but he thinks he'll rebound noting, "I have got two and a half years left to be president of the United States and I intend to get a lot done" -- barring, of course, impeachment or prolonged vacations.
Finally, in England, Helene Mullholland reports that an investigation will start again in to the death of David Kelly. Kelly was the scientist who was at least one source for a 2003 report by the BBC that the Tony Blair government "sexed up" the intelligence to sell the case for war. Angry denials from the ruling party led to what some would call a witch hunt. During the witch hunt, Kelly was identified as a source. Shortly afterward, he died (July 18, 2003) and, though his death had been officially ruled a suicide, questions have remained.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Live coverage of the Michael Hayden hearing on KPFA (9:00 a.m. ET)

"TV review: Law & Order: Trial by Jury" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):
Making what we're sure was a brave acting choice, Amy Carlson sports cleavage often. Since the show provides no backstory for any of the characters, we invented our own.
Carlson's Kelly Gaffney (who thinks up these names?) (or were they "ripped from the phone book?") was a mousy, flat chested thing throughout high school and college. As her gift for getting into law school, her boyfriend, Lance Beverly, paid for implants. Alas, Kelly was so overjoyed at the prospect of permanently strapping on two floatation devices, she failed to check and see where Lance, a poor boy from uptown, got the money. Turns out he was dealing crack. Kelly found this out after he was arrested. She took an an oath, then and there, to clean up the streets and to wait for Lance to finish serving his term. But he got shanked in prison, probably for having the name Lance Beverly, and now she's left with only the sense of purpose and the memory of him. So every time she lifts and drops the implants, she's doing it to remember him. She must think of him constantly.
Carlson won a daytime Emmy for playing Josie on Another World in 1998. Her big moment, that no doubt cinched the win, was when Josie, four months pregnant, got shoved out a window, fell five stories, landed on a trampoline and miscarried. After that, it's no surprise Carlson's drained. Which explains her low key, some might say non-existant, characterization at present.

I'm opening with that tonight because so much of the news today bothered me. I'm not funny like Wally (who has a wonderful take on some of the events in "THIS JUST IN! IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN A GOOD DAY FOR THE BULLY BOY!") so I figured I'd open with that. It's from one of my favorite reviews that Ava and C.I. have done. That's not even my favorite part but the part I figured would be the most easy to follow for readers who don't know the review.

For that edition, The Third Estate Sunday Review was tripping back to the sixties. Ava and C.I. weren't told ahead of time that this would include their review. That was sprung on them at the last minute. So they write as though they're two high schoolers in what may be the period when America was in Vietnam or may be current times. It's very funny.

I hope you were able to catch Cindy Sheehan and Anthony Arnove on KPFA's The Morning Show. They were on the first hour and it was a speech by each of them. There was a part in Sheehan's speech where she said something to the effect of, "This next line may be too much but I wrote it and like the way it sounds." It was a wonderful line that followed but I enjoyed her aside. She's had such a huge impact on the peace movement and gives so much that sometimes I forget about that side of her. I found it very charming. Sunny was able to listen to the full program but I only heard the first hour before I had my first session. She asked me to note that
Larry Bensky and Mitch Jesserich will cover the Michael Hayden hearing tomorrow live on KPFA. (9:00 a.m. Eastern Time is when it starts.) I don't know which, if any, other Pacifica stations will cover it. Jesserich is with WBAI so they may cover it as well. But everyone, including KPFA, is in fund raising mode so for any of the stations to stop that to carry the coverage is a big deal. I can't imagine that even one NPR would stop their pledge drive to carry coverage -- and they're not covering this live. So if you have any money you can afford to give, please donate to the Pacifica station of your choice. If you don't have a station of your choice, then you need to try them out and find one that speaks to you. This is independent media. You support it or it goes away. That's reality. Pacifica predates NPR and started, I think, in 1949 with the first station (KPFA). If everyone who could donate and who believes in independent media would donate, Pacifica could reach an even larger audience. It's available online so, if you can listen on your computer, there's not an excuse to say, "Oh well, there's not one in my area." Provided you are able to listen online, it's global.

Listening, and I mainly listen to WBAI or KPFA, I have to wonder how different things would be if every city had a Pacifica broadcasting over the airwaves? We're lucky to be able to listen to any of them online but there are people who don't have computer access or they have computers that they can't listen to programming on due to it being older computers. (Or they are hearing impaired and, if that's the case for you, remember that Democracy Now! provides transcripts at their web site -- as well as allowing you to listen to a show or watch the video of one.)

Rebbeca's "things that make you applaud and the things that make you go 'wtf'?" was funny and to the point. I agree with her that it's really sad that left (and "left") sites don't note the work of Amy Goodman and others. The week before last, you saw links online to Ray McGovern at CNN or MSNBC and you really didn't see a lot of sites steering you the interview Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez did with him. I don't understand why we reward the corporate media that helped lie us into war? It seems like one of the lessons of the lies of war would be that we need our independent media. But we don't seem to go there. It seems like a lot of links go out to corporate media when there are independent choices. I can understand using corporate media when it's something that you can't find an independent source for. But when you've got the choice, I don't know why you wouldn't make indymedia your first choice?

We can grow independent media or we can wait until the Iran war is underway and fret over the fact that the corporate media again lied us into war. It's like we reached out to play with the flames coming out of the burner in February, 2003 and now, three years later, we're back to saying, "Oh, pretty flames" and about to try to touch them again.

I didn't hear it but Sunny said Philip Maldari (co-host of The Morning Show) made comments on the importance of independent media yesterday and today that made her want to cry "because he was so passionate and so right." Sunny said yesterday he was talking about it in relation to the impeachment discussion they'd had (see C.I.'s "Talking entry") and how you weren't going to hear that kind of a discussion on corporate media (I don't know if he included NPR as corporate media or not, and forgot to ask Sunny, but I consider NPR corporate media). There are amazing programs and maybe you just go to blogs for news? If that's the case, there are music programs, comedy programs, public affairs programs, health programs, pretty much everything you could imagine. Pulling from all the stations in the network, I'd guess that there is a show that speaks to you or would if you'd sample.

If you already do listen, help get the word out on the programming and how you still do have free speech and actual public broadcasting. There is always talk of how we need to create a network (audio or video) for people who aren't drinking the Kool Aid. That network exists and it's Pacifica. You can help it grow or you can turn on Hardball or whatever else and be fed a bunch of spin from a bunch of people who make a living spitting out conventional wisdom and are never accountable for the fact that they are wrong.

Pacifica isn't about trying to please the beltway crowd in DC, it's about people and voices. The sort of thing NPR was supposed to be.

So that's my pitch. (I don't care whether you donate or not. I'd hope you would if you're able to. I do care whether or not you are listening. Please sample the programming.) Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts.

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

You can find some statistics on life expectancy, literacy, mortality rate by clicking here. C.I.'s Iraq snapshot on Monday noted this and I posted it here on Monday but I'm just amazed at how little attention it has garnered. (Democracy Now! noted it, one more reason to support independent media.) I was outraged Monday and thought, "Well this is going to be a big story."
It hasn't been. Is it because it doesn't fit into the pleasing motif everyone's pushing ("Iraq's about to have a cabinet!")

Maybe in two and a half years, corporate media will tip-toe around this story the way the did the revelations from the Downing Street Memos (the proof that we were lied into war with "fixed" intelligence)?

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

For more on this --

"FBI Launches Probe of NYPD Over RNC Protests" (Democracy Now!):
Democracy Now has learned the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation of the New York Police Department over the NYPD's treatment of protesters during the Republican National Convention. During the week of the 2004 convention, police arrested some 1800 protesters -- more than at any previous political convention in the country's history.

I am remembering the real time coverage Amy Goodman and everyone provided of the RNC convention and the tactics used. That included housing those arrested in a jail that was a health hazard. I think it was Elizabeth Press (if not, I'll note the proper name Friday) who reported on the Critical Mass ride the Friday before the convention and how the police were out of control. I remember a story Amy Goodman did on these sort of net or mesh that was being used to sweep up the protestors. But, point, today's story was a time that they could have tooted their own horn and then some. They did an amazing job covering the convention and the events (official and non-official) around it. They even expanded the daily broadcast to two hours for the RNC convention and for the DNC convention. That wasn't on one day, that was for the full week. While corporate media yawned and said there was nothing to cover, Goodman & co found stories that needed to be told. Which is why, two years later, when this is news, they don't have to play catch up. They were there when it mattered, they were there when it counted.

Friday, I'll write some additional thoughts about college. I'm not in the mood for it tonight. The UNICEF story, or rather the silence that has greeted it, really has worn me down today. If I hadn't read the TV commentaries (noted above) to find a better mood, I probably wouldn't have blogged tonight.

"Iraq snapshot" ("Democracy Now: Frederick Schwarz discusses the Church Committee and implications for today," The Common Ills):
Iraq snapshot.
Yesterday, as
reported by Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Omar al Neami, nine corpses were found in Iraq, there were drive bys, bombs -- chaos and violence. The hallmark of the illegal occupation.
BBC notes the kidnapping, in Baghdad Tuesday, of an unnamded diplomat with the United Arab Emirates. CNN notes that this "attack was the second in two weeks involving employees of the UAE embassy in Iraq. On May 3, two Iraqis working for the embassy were killed during an attack on their car, according to the Emirates News Agency." The AFP identifies him as: Naji al-Nuami "Abu Rashid" (parenthesis are the AFP's). While one person with al-Noaimi was reported as wounded, Reuters reports that the man has now died from the gun shot wounds (he's identified only as a "Sudanese driver.")
CNN, the Associated Press and BBC note that Iraqi prime minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki will, apparently, announce his cabinet nominations this Saturday. As the rah-rah-rah-put-on-Etta-James'-"At Last!"-mood builds, it's left to AFP to note the obvious: the parliment meets Saturday because the constitutional deadline is Monday, the 22nd. al-Maliki has already missed his own imposed deadline. The Monday deadline is not optional. Hassan al-Sunaid informed the AFP that professional liar (my term) Ahmed Chalabi is in the running for head of the interior ministry (competing with Qassem Daoud).
While that goes on under the watchful eye of the United States administration,
Des Browne, England's defense secretary, again put forth the line that England might be withdrawing from Iraq. "The line"? British members have grown tired of what they see as empty talk. If that seems harsh or negative to any Pollyanish on Iraq visitors, Browne also maintains that things are hunky dory in Basra. (They're not and we'll get to that in a moment.)
Reuters notes that four police officers have been wounded from two roadside bombs in Baghdad (one near the hospital al-Kindi, the other at a check point). The Associated Press notes that two corpses ("handcuffed and shot in the head") have been discovered in Baghdad.
And while Baghdad gets a great deal of press attention (due to the Green Zone being located there), it shouldn't be the only focus.
Patrick Cockburn notes that "One person is being assassinated in Basra every hour, as order in Iraq's second city disintegrates, according to an Iraqi Defence Ministry." Along with details on Basra, Cockburn covers the malnutrition going on Iraq. (From Monday: "Meanwhile Australia's ABC notes the "UN-backed government survey" on malnutrition in Iraq which has found that "almost one child in every 10 aged between six months and five years, suffered acute malnourishment." This is a story that should be receiving more attention than it's getting.)
In addition to Cockburn's report (and the
Democracy Now! item above), for more on the widespread malnutrition plaguing Iraq, you can read this UNICEF report. You should especially read it if you're one of the ones (I'm not talking about members here) who've kidded yourself and wasted everyone's time with "A school room was painted!" That ___ has been meaningless and was always meaningless. "A rapid post-war nutritional assessment carried out by UNICEF in Baghdad found that acute malnutrition or wasting, measured by a child's weight for height, has nearly doubled from four per cent a year ago, to almost eight per cent." But all the US administration has been concerned with has been cutting (and ending) the subsidies program in place before the occupation. We're in year four of the illegal occupation. Read the report and then keep kidding yourself that a paint job or ceiling fan anywhere was anything other than window dressing.
Violence has continued in other areas of Iraq as well. Here are two reported events outside Baghdad. In Diyali,
KUNA notes that "an Iraqi officer was killed and two others were injured" in an explosion. In Bauba, Reuters notes that four people are dead and 11 wounded following an explosion and gunfire
For Knight Ridder,
Edward Colimore takes a look at American women serving in Iraq and notes that "nearly 400 female service members" have been wounded, "11 have had amputation," over "50 others have been killed."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Cindy Sheehan & Anthony Arnove on KPFA's The Morning Show Wednesday

Thank you to those who wrote to say they enjoyed the college ramble last night. I'll try to pick the thread back up later this week. But tonight is a rush-rush post because we're all trying to carve out some time to get on the phone and figure out some features for The Third Estate Sunday Review ahead of time. Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts.

"Sunni Group Accuses U.S. of Killing 25 Civilians in Iraq" (Democracy Now!):
In Iraq, a leading Sunni religious group has accused U.S. forces of killing 25 civilians in a series of recent raids near Baghdad. The Muslim Clerics Association accused U.S. and Iraqi forces of carrying out air strikes against civilians in Latifiya. In addition the group said U.S. forces shot and killed people who ran from their houses during the bombing. In a statement the Muslim Clerics Association said "We hold the Iraqi government and the occupiers responsible for this brutal atrocity." The U.S. military admits it killed 41 people in the recent attacks but the military described all of the victims as either associates of al Qaeda or terrorists.

Please read C.I.'s "Other Items" which walks you through how the military's press agent Dexter Filkins minimizes the importance of the above. There was a Congressional event today, a briefing. Probably not "bipartisan" and the New York Times will use that as their excuse not to cover it. Monica Benderman was supposed to be present.

"National Leaders and Activists to present Congressional Briefing on Conscientious Objection and Military Recruitment Practices" (Press Release from the Fellowship of Reconicliation, Kevin Benderman Defense Committee):
The Fellowship of Reconciliation, the oldest, interfaith peace and justice organization in the nation, believes that the current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the threat of a new war in Iran, compel people of conscience to speak out in support of the fundamental right of dissent from participation in any form of armed conflict.
The FOR further believes that many young people are induced to enlist in the military by unscrupulous and even fraudulent tactics used by military recruiters.
For these reasons, the Fellowship of Reconciliation and allied organizations in the I Will Not Kill campaign will hold a Congressional briefing on conscientious objection and military recruitment practices in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, May 16, 2006 from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. The briefing will be held in Room 1116 of the Longworth House of Representatives Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515, and will be hosted by the office of Representative Cynthia McKinney (D-GA)
The purpose of this briefing is to provide both a historical overview of the right of conscientious objection and a survey of current issues and problems confronting individuals who elect to dissent from military service.
“In a time of national turmoil and deep engagement in wars, we hold that the refusal to kill and participate in armed conflict is a fundamental right, and a moral necessity,” said Ibrahim Ramey, Disarmament Coordinator at the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
“We uphold this right and seek for others to become more familiar with the right of conscientious objection,” he said.
Presenters at the briefing include: Oscar Castro of the American Friends Service Committee’s Youth and Militarism Program; Ibrahim Ramey of the Fellowship of Reconciliation; Rev. Graylan S. Hagler of Washington, D.C., Steve Theberge from the War Resisters League; Jose Vasquez of Iraq Veterans Against the War; Matthew Ochalek of Pax Christi USA; Theo Sitther from the Center on Conscience and War; Elandria Williams of the Unitarian Universalist Youth; Arlene Inouye of the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth; and Tim Godshall of National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund. There will also be a special presentation by Monica Benderman, wife of imprisoned military conscientious objector U.S. Army Sgt. Kevin Benderman.

I'm not expecting that to get a lot of attention but I hope I'm wrong. I also think it's important to know about it whether it gets covered in tomorrow's papers or not. (I haven't heard or seen anything on it on radio or TV.)

"Report: Government Tracks Phone Calls of Journalists" (Democracy Now!):
In other news, a senior federal law enforcement official has admitted to ABC News that the government is now tracking phone calls made by journalists in an attempt to find out who is leaking information to the media. According to the report the government has focused on journalists from the New York Times, the Washington Post and ABC News. The disclosure comes just days after USA Today reported that Verizon, BellSouth and AT&T have handed over the phone records of millions of customers to the National Security Agency. On Monday one of the companies -- BellSouth -- denied giving the NSA customer calling records.

Help me out here. As I understood the story, nothing was being physically handed over, the information was being directly routed to the NSA. I take BellSouth's denial of something they haven't been accused of as meaning that the reports are true. For more on that, I've got a highlight.

"FBI Said to Seek Phone Records of News Reporters" (John Nichols, The Online Beat, The Nation):
To be sure, the Bush-Cheney administration would not be the first to go after journalists in order to protect itself from challenges to its authority. President John Adams actually jailed journalistic critics in the early days of the Republic, provoking the crisis that would make him the first president to be defeated for reelection. President Richard Nixon produced an "enemies list" that included the names of prominent journalists such as Daniel Schorr.
This could mark a turning point for the usually pliant Washington press corps, however.
White House reporters are by any measure a docile lot, and there is no question that the Bush-Cheney administration has benefited tremendously from the frequently stenographic reporting of even its most outlandish spin by unquestioning national correspondents -- two words: "Judith Miller." But it is difficult to imagine, especially with the approval ratings for the president and vice president dipping to depths previously explore by Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew in their darkest days, that Washington reporters will take kindly to being spied on by an administration bent to shutting up confidential sources.

Historically, this has happened before. It was also stopped before and needs to be stopped now. I'm appalled by the slide we've rushed down where everything's suddenly okay: torture, spying, internment, lying, you name it. Is there anything left for our government to stand for?
Al Qaeda isn't destroying us, the Bully Boy is. Americans need to get serious about whether or not democracy means anything to them because Bully Boy's steering us so far away from what we're supposed to value that I'm not sure we can recover -- not when Nancy Pelosi's rushing in to say "no" to impeachment. Read C.I.'s "NYT: Bell-South says, "No, we didn't!" and the Times runs with it" for more on that.

"Iraq snapshot" ("Democracy Now: Brian Ross discusses the spying on journalists," The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue as
Reuters notes "Andrew Krepinevich, a retired army officer and professor at Washington's George Mason University, estimates that defeating the insurgency in Iraq would take at least a decade, hundreds of billions of dollars and longer casualty rolls."
And right now?
As Sandra Lupien noted on
KPFA's The Morning Show, "At least 18 are dead after an attack on a garge . . . dozes are wounded." This happened in Baghdad and, as the Associated Press notes, before the attack on the garage/parking lot, the assailants "first shot five guards." The deaths and the injuries resulted from exploding "a parked oil tanker." Reuters notes that the fatality count has now risen to 19. The BBC notes that this takes place as Nouri Maliki attempts to meet the Monday deadline regarding forming his cabinet (constitutional deadline). Sources tell KUNA that the cabinet will be "announced in 24 hours and that the Foreign Ministry portfolio would go to Hushyar Zibari and Ahmad Al-Jalabi would assume the Interior Ministry."
Also in Baghdad,
AFP reports that four corpses have turned up "including the body of a police officer reported kidnapped on Monday." CNN notes three (of the four) "shot in the head . . . tortured." CNN also notes an attack that killed 6 people "in the southern Hor Rijab Shi'ite district" of Baghdad. Reuters notes that the police's account and the account from the Interior Ministry differ on the attack. Reuters reports the death of four US military base workers who were killed when assailants "opened fire on their minibus." China's People's Daily Online reports the death of US soldier as a result of a roadside bomb.
Mark Oliver takes a look at the issue of the mental health of the British and American troops and notes a King's College London study which has found that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder effects many (4% of British and 20% American troops) and a finding "that 26% of reservists have mental health problems such as depression, compared to 19% of regular troops."
In Kirkuk, assailants attacked a police patrol killing two police officers. KUNA notes that police Captain Shuhab Ahmad Mohammad and his brother Envoy Qasin Ahmad Mohammad were assasinated when gunmen "opened fire" on his car. KUNA also notes that Dr. Adnan Abbas Hashimi was killed "in front of his clinic in Mosul." In Kerbala, Reuters notes a corpse was discovered "blindfolded and handcuffed," while an Egyptian who worked in a bakery was killed by unidentified assailants.
The Times of London reports that Christian Peace Teammakers have made the decision to discontinue their work on the ground in Iraq, "evacuated its volunteers and warned they might not return" and Kim Sengupta (in London's Independent) provides a look at Joseva Lewaicei and Adam Morris, two British soldiers who died in Iraq.
All of this as Ian Bruce reports ("
US Spells out plan to bomb Iran," Scotland's Herald):
THE US is updating contingency plans for a non-nuclear strike to cripple Iran's atomic weapon programme if international diplomacy fails, Pentagon sources have confirmed.
[. . .]
The main plan calls for a rolling, five-day bombing campaign against 400 key targets in Iran, including 24 nuclear-related sites, 14 military airfields and radar installations, and Revolutionary Guard headquarters.

At least 75 targets in underground complexes would be attacked with waves of bunker-buster bombs.

C.I. passed on that Ciny Sheehan and Anthony Arnove are both going to be on KPFA's The Morning Show tomorrow morning so, if you're able to listen (airwaves or online) please make a point to.

Monday, May 15, 2006

"We hold the Iraqi government and the occupiers responsible for this brutal atrocity"

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

There were many worthy headlines today, too many. So Mike and I decided we'd grab Iraq via C.I.'s snapshot and try to focus on some other headlines. But we both agreed that the demonstration this weekend was too important (and too little noted by the mainstream media) for us to not grab it and make it our top headline.

In fact, I'd left space (that I'll take out now) to write a paragraph or two before the item but I really want anyone coming to this site to see the headline above first. I don't know how Mike does it, but once we decide on our headlines for the day, I copy and paste mine in and then write around them which is a trick I stole from C.I. when I saw it used over Thanksgiving.

To make up for jumping straight into the news with no attempt to ease in, I'll note that's also the way C.I. did papers in college. Grab the research, assemble the points you want to make, plug them in and then write around it. I never could get behind that approach. It just seemed too much for a paper. It wasn't really an outline, it was more of a spine, and from that C.I. would pick spots and write around them. This prevented the "I don't know what to write" or "I don't know how I'm going to write this" panic. There was never any of the staring at the blank paper that I did. It was always grab a section and write on it. After the paragraphs were done around the research points, it was time to write the introduction and conclusion and then to work on transitions between paragraphs.

It worked and I could probably do it today because I rarely do anything in long hand anymore. There was a paper C.I. did that had 13 pages of works cited, the paper itself was probably seventy pages long and you had to step around it in the living room because the index cards were on blank pages and then you had the pages with writing on them. But the paper was finished within two days. Finished right before spring break, I should add. It wasn't due until the end of the term. Remembering all the headaches I had over papers, remembering right now, I should have tried using that method. I remember way too many nights, early mornings, where I would be so frustrated because I was stuck on a point and my paper was due shortly.

Rebecca would wait until the very last minute to start. I never did that, but I may as well have the way I'd get stuck on a point and end up going out for coffee at three in the morning in the hopes that getting out and doing something different would remove the block I'd stopped at.
That's probably why Rebecca and Jim enjoy the editions at The Third Estate Sunday Review so much. They both love that "Am I going to finish! Am I going to pull it off!" burst off enthusiasm.
I think those editions are helpful for one reason alone, it exposes everyone to different styles of writing because it is a group effort.

The way I did papers and essays was the way we were instructed which was start with the first paragraph and move on to the next. There are other ways and I think my stress levels in college would have been much lower if I'd known of other methods and tried them. ("But you knew of C.I.'s?" Not until it got to be the advanced course work and the papers were longer. C.I. would always write during the time that most people sleep. It wasn't until the papers got really long and the living room floor would be needed to assemble them that I even realized there was another way of writing a paper.) I really think courses like that would be helpful. Many universities offer a freshman course which is basically "This is your university." They sometimes give it a "PSYCH" preface but it's just getting familiar with the university. Some that don't offer it as a course, schedule an orientation.

But I really do think that teaching/sharing that there is not just one way to do a paper (or anything) would benefit a student body. In terms of my practice, I'll occasionally get a patient who really just needs some validation or confirmation that something they're doing is okay because they've been led to believe (all of their lives) that you do ___ this way and only this way.

I know I studied better because I got to see Rebecca, C.I. and other friends ways of studying. Before a test, Rebecca would gather all of her notes and make up a list of questions from them based upon the main themes from lectures. Her method really turned her into a teacher teaching herself. I would review the notes and then review the notes I'd made on the readings and I would start that a week before the test so that I'd be able to review them several times. C.I. does this whole immersion thing -- I say "does" because that's still C.I.'s way when it comes to an issue or cause or work or whatever. (It's why Betty always wants to read her latest chapter to C.I. before she posts it -- Betty goes deep into her characters and for a sounding board, C.I.'s always her first choice -- their process is very similar.)

It's termed, by some, "overstudying." There was a professor I had, that C.I. didn't, who used to say that those who overstudied were wasting their time and I wonder how many people believed that? (I hope no one in the class that also had to immerse themselves.) For someone to reach the level where they're comfortable with the material isn't "wrong." I'll add that there was another trick C.I. had for course that weren't interesting (the subject matter wasn't interesting to C.I.) which was to just memorize. Whole chapters. To this day, C.I. can recite one of the natural science text books we had back then. The subject was of no interest (and C.I. got stuck with the worst professor in the department who couldn't make the material come alive), so the answer was just to memorize the whole text. The lab was a breeze but the lecture aspect was a nightmare. I'm trying to remember how C.I. ended up in that professor's class because everyone knew his classes were a snore-fest. Students would sit at the back of the lecture hall, way up at the top of the seats, and go to sleep. The professor never called anyone, never made eye contact and spoke in a flat monotone.

I'm not one of those people who sit around thinking, "If only I could do that over." I feel life is life. But if someone came to me and asked me to design some introductory courses for freshmen, I'd really rework much of what we were taught. I'd also probably tell students that the professor isn't God because I remember so many being afraid of them. (C.I. was not one to be afraid of a professor.) They didn't feel like they could disagree with a professor or that, if they were screwed over, they were able to do anything about that.

A friend's daughter is in her first year of college and she came home this weekend to visit her mother (Mother's Day) so that's probably why this is on my mind. Listening to her talk Sunday, it really didn't seem like much had changed since I was in college. She has a professor, for instance, who for the second time this semester has lost their tests -- tests they'd already taken. She was bothered because the professor's "answer" was to tell them that the score they made on the first test would just be factored in three times (the final is their fourth test). She did lousy on the first test. I told her to go to the dean and complain. Everybody's upset, in her class, but no one's doing anything about it.

That actually happened to me with a visiting professor. He lost one test and then claimed that he had the second test locked in the trunk of his car but his car had stopped running so it would be a few weeks before he could get to them. Rebecca and C.I. were both telling me to do something but I was a sophomore and nervous about making waves. Then, that week, C.I. comes in before class starts to pass on some message to me and the professor shows up and makes some statement to C.I. (they hadn't met, but C.I. was "known"). C.I. said something like, "Don't you get fresh with me, ____ [professor's first name]. It's no surprise you don't know when you class starts because you can't keep track of your tests. When someone goes and complain about that, you'll have a real problem on your hands." The professor tried to say something and C.I. just said, "I'm done with you."

The professor was furious and everyone in the classroom was silent. C.I. finished telling me whatever it was that was being passed on and then left. At which point, the professor directed a question to me: was it okay to begin the lecture now? He was such an ass and the elephant in the room had been put in the spotlight. So I said, "No, it's not okay. It's not okay for you to provide information that we're going to be tested on until you tell us exactly what you're doing to get our second tests out of your mystery trunk and exactly what you intend to do about the first test that you lost." If he hadn't been such an ass, I probably wouldn't have said that. But once I did, the whole class came alive. People were saying they wanted answers (now) or they were going to the dean.

He had to address the problem. That was his job but we were all too nervous to call him on it. So I shared that story with my friend's daughter and she's supposed to be going to the dean over the professor this week. If you see college as a hospital, you can see how frightened some people can be. The professor is the one handing out the grades and students can be afraid to speak out. The same way, if you're in the hospital for an operation and a doctor makes you uncomfortable but you stay silent because you think, "My fate is in his/her hands."

I may talk about this more throughout the week. (I want to check with Rebecca and C.I. to make sure it's okay to share their experiences.) The reason is that I was really struck by friend's daughter's attitude which I expected to be much more advanced than my own when I was in college. I generally assume that due to everything going on, students today are more experienced and aware by the time they get to college. I think that's probably true. I still think that. But I also think that, for some, there's this fear because so much is riding on college. A lot rode on it back then, but these days a college degree has become such a basic, that there's probably much more riding on it. That was a thought she expressed. How she was one year in, had three more to go, and how much was riding on her grades. With so many grants and other funds being slashed (thanks to the Bully Boy's War on Education) and the fact that many now see a college degreee as the sort of requirement a high school one used to be, I think some people are under even more pressure not to make waves -- even when waves need to be made.

Mike will be addressing the headlines as well -- I'm sure without a long break in the middle where he rambles on as I just did -- so please visit Mikey Likes It!

"Clear Channel DJ Threatens On Air to Sexually Abuse 4-Year-Old" (Democracy Now!)
In New York, a popular disc jockey working for Clear Channel has been arrested on charges of endangering the welfare of a child. The DJ, known as Star, threatened on-air to sexually abuse the four-year-old daughter of a rival radio personality. He also offered listeners $500 for information on where the four-year-old went to school. In addition he made anti-Asian slurs about the girl’s mother. Up until last week Star co-hosted the popular syndicated morning show "Star & Buc Wild." Clear Channel fired him on Wednesday but only after a member of the New York City council took issue with the broadcast.

That story isn't surprising and that's largely because Clear Channel has done more to pollute the airwaves than anyone else. It seems like one of their dee jays is always getting in to trouble and, this company that wouldn't support the Dixie Chicks' right to have a different view point, usually trots out the First Amednment when that happens. If a city council member hadn't been disgusted, "Star" would probably still be on the air. My own personal method, by the way, is just to not listen to that nonsense. But when they're banning people (or firing as they did to one dee jay for her political beliefs -- the woman was against the war and has a lawsuit against them)
for political views, I think they're Glass House shatters when they allow that sort of hate speech on their airwaves.

"BC Prof Resigns Over Decision to Honor Condi Rice" (Democracy Now!):
In education news, an adjunct professor at Boston College has resigned to protest the school’s decision to award Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice an honorary degree. In a letter to the school's president, professor Steve Almond said Rice has quote "lied to the American people knowingly, repeatedly... in an effort to justify a pathologically misguided foreign policy."

Good for Steve Almond for standing up. You do need to stand up for what you believe in but just because you need to do it, that doesn't make standing up any easier. Dropping back to the earlier topic/ramble, I am sure that his actions have had an impact already. Students have seen him take a brave stand because of what he believes in and that does have an impact. It also teaches that you don't just go along so an important message is being sent by Dr. Almond's actions.

"Army Withdraws Support For Baghdad ER Documentary" (Democracy Now!):
And senior Army officials are withdrawing their support for a new HBO documentary filmed inside an Army combat hospital in Baghdad. The Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey and other senior Army officials were originally planning to attend a screening tonight of the film Baghdad ER. But they have decided that the film's graphic footage might demoralize soldiers and negatively affect public opinion about the war. Last week the Army's chief surgeon issued a memo warning medical staff at Army posts across the country to prepare for a possible influx of soldiers and families seeking comfort and counseling after watching the documentary. This is an excerpt of Baghdad ER. A warning for our television audience: this footage may disturb some viewers. Baghdad ER was produced by Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill of Downtown Community Television in New York. The documentary will air on HBO on Sunday.

We're including that one as a programming note. If you have HBO (or have a friend who does) you might want to try to catch that with some friends this coming Sunday.

I've rambled tonight so I'll note three things I think you should read and then wrap this up.
Kat's "Pearl Jam does Pearl Jam," Betty's "The joke is always Thomas Friedman. Always" and Trina's "Popcorn in the Kitchen."

"Iraq snapshot" ("Democracy Now: Greg Palast addresses Iraq, corporations and more," The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue.
noted on today's Democracy Now!, "at least 47 people" died yesterday as a result of roadside bombings. NYT's Sabrina Tavernise noted that five corpses were found in Baghdad Sundey ("gunshot wounds to the head")."At least 7 US soldiers died over Mother's Day Weekend," Sandra Lupien noted today on KPFA's The Morning Show while attempts to cobble together a cabinet continue to falter as participants "continue to disagree over who will fill the posts of interior, defense and oil minister." Wednesday, May 10th was the deadline Iraqi prime minister designate Nuri al-Maliki himself set as the deadline for finalizing his cabinet. And CNN notes the death of two British soldiers on Saturday which brings the total UK fatalities to 111 since the illegal invasion. The names of the two killed are Adam Morris (19 y.o.) and Joseva Lewaicei (25 y.o.).
Reuters notes that the Muslim Clerics Association is accusing "US forces . . . of killing 25 civilians in raids near Baghdad in the past two days." The Muslim Clerics Association released a statement staing, "We hold the Iraqi government and the occupiers responsible for this brutal atrocity."
Near Balad Ruz,
CNN reports four teachers are dead after armed assailants stopped their minibus (which had seven teachers on it) and shot the four.
In Nahaweel, a roadside bomb claimed the life of one person and wounded another. The bomb exploded near a police station. This as the Associated Press reports an attack on a police station, "just outside Basra," which has resulted in the deaths of at least eight police officers and at least an additional ten more wounded. The BBC notes that the attack by "tribesmen" followed the killing of "their leader . . . by men wearing police uniforms."
In Amarah, the
Associated Press reports four British soldiers were wounded today in an attack on British military camp Camp Abu Naji. CNN notes that "three soldiers received minor wounds" but that one had to be transported to a military hospital.
In Wajihiya,
Reuters notes the death of a seven-year-old girl and well as the wounding of at least "seven members of her family" after their home was hit with by "a mortar round."
Australia's ABC notes the "UN-backed government survey" on malnutrition in Iraq which has found that "almost one child in every 10 aged between six months and five years, suffered acute malnourishment."

I lied. I'm not wrapping up. I need to note a documentary I heard on KPFA today, Against the Grain played Class Dismissed: How Television Frames the Working Class which is was just an amazing documentary. I recognized some voices, from TV clips, but I didn't realize how out of TV land I was until I repeatedly wondered, "Who's that?" The documentary addresses the way television portrays the working class in programming. It noted that the dream of upward mobility is a false dream for many based on the figures. But it's something that programs continue to sell just as they sell the working class in a stereotype and, stood out most to me, sell the notion that the working class is better off not mixing (by repeated portrayals of such attempts leading to embarrassment and shame). Ed Asner was the narrator and there were many wonderful people participating. Barbara Ehrenreich comes to mind (author of Nickle & Dimed and columnist for The Progressive). She spoke of, among other things, the attacks on Roseanne when she was doing her sitcom (Roseanne).