Friday, December 02, 2005

Be sure to check out Mike's comments on the Democracy Now! items by visiting his site Mikey Likes It! I've got a few things to note this evening.

National Guard Offering $1,000 Recruiting "Finders Fee" (Democracy Now!):
Faced with dwindling recruiting numbers, the Army National Guard is offering a finder’s fee to soldiers who can enlist new recruits. This according to a report in USA Today. The Guard Recruiter Assistant Program, launched this week in five states, offers National Guard members rewards of $1,000 dollars for enlisting a recruit and an additional $1,000 dollars if the recruit shows up for basic training. The National Guard says recruiting has fallen 20% short of its goal this year.

This is a bit like Subway offering their employees bonuses for every new hire they can scare up.
The military trains people to recruit. It spends a lot of money on that. It also pays people who hold the job of recruiter.

Justice Dept.: Delay Redistricting Plan Violated Voting Act (Democracy Now!):
A memo obtained by the Washington Post shows lawyers at the Justice Department concluded a controversial Texas redistricting plan spearheaded by indicted Congressmember Tom Delay violated the Voting Rights Act. The memo argued the redistricting plan illegally diluted the voting influence of minorities in several Texas congressional districts. The memo said: "The State of Texas has not met its burden in showing that the proposed congressional redistricting plan does not have a discriminatory effect." Texas lawmakers approved the plan anyway, the memo says, because it stood to increase the number of elected federal Texas Republicans. Following the plan's approval in 2003, Republicans gained five seats in the following year's congressional elections. The redistricting plan is currently being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Congressmember Delay is facing state charges of money laundering and conspiracy in connection with state elections.

The "violated" the Voting Rights Act. They broke the act. They packed the districts in to formations that were beneifical to them. It didn't matter if it was beneficial to voters because it's all about them and them getting ahead. It's as though you agreed to play Go Fish and mid-game, they decided you'd play Gin instead. Their lack of character is demonstrated in their eagerness to sell out tradition while screaming that tradition must be respected.

Yesterday, the online topic was race. In this community, four members weighed in. I want to note Cedric's because I think it's strong writing.

"Race" (Cedric's Big Mix):
So we're all supposed to write about race today. Everyone in the community. It's a web project and here I thought I was done with homework a long time ago.
I told C.I. that I would be happy to write about it but that I might not have anything anyone wanted to hear. C.I. said, "Even better. Be true to you."
Is this the day where the web purges the guilt for being white-white-white every other day of the year?
Will we see "fab post! hat tip to . . ." nonsense all over the net?
Rebecca wrote something brave. In it she talked about the ways Whites can aid racists. It was brave, it was Rebecca. But maybe some White person will write a "moving post" about Rosa Parks and it will gather steam all over the net and we'll once again here how wonderful the net is and how brave.
I don't expect much from it.
I'd love to be wrong but we can't talk about racism online.
We're not supposed to. We're supposed to look the other way.
Certainly if the net was racist, people of color would be shut out.
Oh wait, we are.
There's a token voice they include on their blog rolls and we're all supposed to be happy about that.
"One of us made it!"
Today is apparently Black day.
Women get ready because you're day will be coming soon.People of color and women get a day or two each year.
Otherwise it's white-white-white male-male-male.
So today a lot of people will get to feel good about themselves and sleep easy knowing that they did "their part."
Or maybe they'll kid themselves that because they blogged on TD Jakes/TD Jokes they're down with the peeps. You have to be pretty white to think TD Jokes speaks to African-American liberals.
But hey, you looked in the paper, you saw a Black man and thought, "I'll write about this!"Didn't matter that he's got nothing to say to the left. Doesn't matter what he preaches because us Blacks just love our preachers, right?

I like Danny Schechter's writing and wish I took the time to note it more but this was sent to me and ended up in the trash folder for spam. I almost missed it. If you've already seen it, well now you get to see it again.

"WAR ON THE MEDIA: 'Don't Bomb Us'" (Danny Schechter, BuzzFlash):
For some time, and other outlets have been reporting on the Bush Administration's contempt for the media and its attempts to manage and spin coverage.
Writing in this week's Nation, John Nichols and Robert McChesney catalogue the various strategies that have been deployed, charging, "with its unprecedented campaign to undermine and, where possible, eliminate independent journalism, the Bush Administration has demonstrated astonishing contempt for the Constitution and considerable fear of an informed public."
But would it actually attempt to "take-out" media institutions and kill or otherwise silence journalists? Would it bomb a TV station? How far will this government go?
We know that other governments have shown little restraint. An Indonesian and a Russian journalist were poisoned on airplanes in high profile cases. Others have been "disappeared," killed, jailed and tortured. Groups like Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of reporters compile the cases and regularly call for justice.

And tonight, instead of a peace quote, I want to excerpt C.I. on Dexter Filkins, the Green Zone, et al. I think it's really important that people are aware that "reporting" isn't what they might think. The reporters are like chickens on a corporate farm, piled one on top of another, no free ranging, confinded in the Green Zone.

"Democracy Now: Sami Rasuli, Arun Gupta, Jose Serrano; Margaret Kimberley, Robert Parry, Danny Schechter" (The Common Ills):
Lastly, a number of e-mails came in regarding Dexter Filkins & John F. Burns' "For Once, President and His Generals See the Same War" in the New York Times this morning. All want to know why no comment? I can imagine few things worse in the morning than having to read through Dexy's "reporting" (his "award winning" "reporting").
What do I think of the article after reading it? I think it's a real shame that Burns' attached his once formidable name to this nonsense. They do not "see the same war," the Bully Boy and the generals (note that I didn't say "his"). That flies in the face of not only logic but public record. (See Seymour Hersh's" Up In The Air: Where is the Iraq war headed next?" in The New Yorker to name the most recent example.) Sunning themselves in the Green Zone, Dexy and Burns think they're on to something. What?
Fakery? It's not reporting. With their team of black t-shirt clad bodyguards escorting them through the Green Zone (Dexy reportedly still packs his own heat), hiding behind stringers who risk their lives (and may get a brief obit if they die, otherwise they'll get nothing but "end credits"), they lie to readers each and every day. LIE.
That's the only word for it since no article notes "We're trapped in the Green Zone! We can't leave without a military escort!" That's they're choice, they chose to be embedded in the Green Zone from day one. So tell the truth already. Quit letting readers think that you're traveling through Iraq when you're hiding in the safety of the Green Zone that's not so safe now and supposedly is about to get a great deal less safe.
The Green Zone section of Baghdad is in danger of being lost. One of the few areas the American military controlled. And safe from the Green Zone, the embedded reporters have never told you how out of control other areas in Iraq are. If Americans had known a year ago, two, that "reporters" "in Iraq" for the mainstream media were Green Zone confined and why, it would be a lot harder for Bully Boy to spin Operation Happy Talk.
Today Dexter Filkins and John F. Burns disgrace themselves and their profession yet again by carrying water for the administration, pretending to be journalists who do more than report from their hotels in the Green Zone (a sub-section of Baghdad, they can't even roam through Baghdad freely) and spinning wildly even though public record refutes their nonsense.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

House Republicans move to split up the 9th Circuit

Be sure to check out Mike's comments at Mikey Likes It! because we're offering our take on the same issues.

"Target: the 9th Circuit (The Republican war on the judiciary continues)" (The Common Ills):
Note Sander's last sentence, "They are now attempting to destroy the judiciary system, which will have profound implications for the future of this country." (The article's from the latest issue of the magazine and it's not available online at present.) Why note the last sentence? Zachary Coile's "
A quiet move in House to split the 9th Circuit" (San Francisco Chronicle):

A little-noticed provision in the massive House budget bill would fulfill the longtime goal of conservatives to split the San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, creating a new 12th circuit appellate court and allowing President Bush to name a slate of new federal judges.
Conservatives long have claimed that the Ninth Circuit is too liberal, and that reputation was reinforced by the court's 2002 ruling that reciting the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.
But legal observers say the outcome of such a split is likely to be a more liberal court making decisions for California, Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands and a more conservative court serving seven other Western states now part of the Ninth Circuit -- Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona.

[. . .]

And who would pack the newly created circuit? (You know the answer.) It's thought that one of the states effected would be Oregon. (We have several members in Oregon.) Oregon hasbeen very active with measures that Bully Boy's Justice Department has opposed. For instance, Oregon's physician-assisted suicide. From CNN's "
Federal judge upholds Oregon assisted-suicide law" (April 17, 2002):

In his ruling, Judge Robert E. Jones criticized U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft for seeking to nullify the state law, saying he "fired the first shot in the battle" and had sought to "stifle" a debate on the matter through a Nov. 6 directive.Jones ordered the federal government to halt any efforts to prosecute Oregon physicians, pharmacists and other health-care providers who participate in assisted suicide of terminally ill patients under Oregon's law.

How bothered is the Bully Boy's Justice Department over this law? When the Ninth Circuit upheld Oregon's law, the Justice Department appealed to the Supreme Court. The case that began as Ashcroft v. Oregon became Gonzales v. Oregon and the Court heard testimony on it in October. (Oral arguments before the Court can be found here.)

C.I. and I were talking on the phone and C.I. brings this up and I had no idea. I asked, "What are you talking about?" I hadn't heard anything about it. This is pretty big and I'm really surprised that I hear it over the phone. I read the main sections of more than one daily paper, I follow the news.

At first, C.I. had to read the article from the San Francisco Chronicle over the phone to me because I still couldn't believe that a) the Republicans would be that sneaky and b) that the national media wouldn't be all over this story.

I know, I should know better when it comes to the national media.

But C.I. has a Bernie Sanders quote at the start and what Congress member Sanders is saying is accurate. They change the rules, they make them up and they cheat. Which is how they could think it was "normal" to try to sneak something like this into a budget bill.

What they can do by playing by the accepted rules, they attempt to force through via covert means. That's today Republican Party.

US Paying Iraqi Media to Publish US-Authored Reports (Democracy Now!):
The Los Angeles Times is reporting the US military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish American-written articles favorable to the U.S. presence in Iraq. The Times reports articles written by U.S. military "information operations" are translated into Arabic and then placed in Iraqi newspapers with the help of Washington-based defense contractor the Lincoln Group. The articles are presented to an Iraqi audience as unbiased news accounts written by independent journalists. The Lincoln Group's contract is worth up to $100 million dollars over five years. A senior Pentagon official commented : "Here we are trying to create the principles of democracy in Iraq. Every speech we give in that country is about democracy. And we’re breaking all the first principles of democracy when we’re doing it."

The same administration that put Armstrong Williams on the payroll and wanted to start an office to put out false information is now seen to be planting Operation Happy Talk (to use C.I.'s term) stories in the Iraqi press.

Think about that. They lied us into war. The mainstream media won't report reality on Iraq and couldn't if they wanted to because, like Dexter Filkins, they're all stuck in the Green Zone.
They can't walk around. They can't see things with their own eyes.

So who do you really think these stories are for? I'm sure they're partly for Iraqis but I'm willing to bet that they are also for Americans. For the press over there to read from the safety of the Green Zone (some via their translators) and to travel back over here via blowback.

Supreme Court to Hear New Hampshire Abortion Case (Democracy Now!):
And the Supreme Court will hear arguments today that observers expect to shed new light on Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ views on abortion. The case deals with a New Hampshire parental notification law that an Appeals court ruled was unconstitutional. The case will be heard as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to consider the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito. Twenty years ago, Alito said there was no constitutional right to abortion.

Mike and I both agreed that Ruth was right when she said she was sick of hearing male pundits explain why abortion wasn't an important issue (statistically it hardly ever comes up). I guess if it's not your body at stake, you're a little more willing to cede rights? I don't want to hear another man on TV or on radio tell us how unimportant abortion is, or how the Supreme Court decides so many other issues, or any other nonsense.

I'll applaud Democracy Now! for having women like Kim Gandy come on and speak. But I'm not too pleased with some of the other left media because it wasn't just the mainstream that gave these male pundits their platform.

Roe v. Wade is based upon the right to privacy. Overturn Roe and you're overturning all of our rights to privacy because that is the goal. Conservative "thinkers" have been very clear on that. If they get their way, women will have no say over their bodies (though their husbands, if they're married to men, will). That's all reproductive rights, not just abortion. It will also effect same-sex relations because that's a privacy right as well as Lawrence v. Texas found.
If Lawrence falls, give up any expectation to any form of privacy in your own home for any reason.

All those (presumably straight) male pundits never felt the need to bring up Lawrence. Without Roe's foundation in privacy rights, you've just lost one of the strongest Court arguments for the right to privacy.

The same press that won't explore this (or explore the attempts to split up the 9th Circuit) will take down dictation as Bully Boy goes into more of his nonsense about "stay the course" and about how we have to be over there. We have to be over there, apparently, because he lied us over there. That makes sense, actually. Withdrawing the troops would pull away the one excuse he loves best: whenever his actions are questioned, he wraps himself in the flag and starts whining that tough questions (the core of a democracy) will undermine his mission.

His mission is apparently to see more people die in Iraq.

"Peace Quotes" (Peace Center):
War would end if the dead could return.
Stanley Baldwin

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

"It is not reasonable that those who gamble with men's lives should not stake their own"

Be sure to check out Mike's Mikey Likes It! for his take on the Democracy Now! items.

Time Magazine Reporter Testifies in CIA Leak Case (Democracy Now!):
This update on the CIA leak case - the Washington Post is reporting Karl Rove's defense team is hoping the testimony of a reporter from Time Magazine might help Rove escape indictment. On Sunday Time revealed that its reporter Viveca Novak had agreed to testify about a conversation she had last year with Rove's attorney Robert Luskin. A person familiar with the investigation told the Washington Post that Luskin cited his conversations with Novak in persuading Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald not to indict Rove in late October. So far Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff Lewis Scooter Libby is the only administration to be indicted over the outing of Valerie Plame's identity as an undercover CIA operative.

What's the deal with Time? It's a weekly, not a daily. But already they've got two "reporters" who've had to testify in this leak case. First there was Matt Cooper, the little boy with beliefs as long as he didn't have to go to prison. Now there's Viveca Novak. Novak's a popular name on the list. But there's plenty of others including Bob Woodward and Judith Miller.

Is anyone else bothered that so many reporters received the leak and didn't cover the fact that the White House was leaking? It's a nice setup that exists today if you're the administration. But when the press whines that they aren't trusted, they better start figuring out what excuse they'll offer to the shouts of "Plamegate!"

Big names (Woodward & Miller) and no names (Cooper & V. Novak), they all make the very exclusive list of "reporters" willing to cover up for the adminstration instead of covering the administration.

The press has bristled at being called lap dogs but the jingle-jangle of the tags on their dog collars make it hard to hear their latest excuses.

Greenpeace Disrupts Blair Speech About Nuclear Energy (Democracy Now!):
In Britain, members of Greenpeace disrupted a speech of Prime Minister Tony Blair's in which he launched an energy review which could lead to new nuclear power stations. The Greenpeace activists climbed into the roof above the podium and unfurled a banner saying: "Nuclear: Wrong Answer." They also dropped stickers onto the delegates below them.

You know what this made me think of? When the New York Times' Felicity Barringer pimped for the nuclear industry with her article that gave lots of space to pro-nuclear positions and tried to pass three twerps off as a groundswell.

If you missed it Felicity Barringer felt she was unfairly critiqued by C.I. C.I. printed her response (with her permission). That's nicer than I would be. C.I.'s attitude was, "I've had my say, she can have her say." Her say was woefully short on the facts and spun even more than her article did.

If your new to this site, C.I. and I have been friends for years. I know C.I. doesn't argue "opinion." Letting FB have her say was perfectly in keeping with C.I. What did C.I. think about her reality-free spin? Even a best friend can't find that out. Privately, C.I. just repeated what got posted at the site, that at least FB was willing to take her comments public unlike other reporters who gripe in e-mails.

My opinion of FB? It must be nice to marry into job security.

In the real world, the less secure world, Monica Benderman's still tackling the hard issues. When I was substituting for Rebecca, I posted about Monica and her husband Kevin. My opinion? He was found guilty because the administration will take no criticism. (Wonder if they have a spot for FB?) Monica's not going to fade away and, when Kevin finally has a his freedom, I bet he won't be silent either.

"How Do You Save a Country?" (Monica Benderman, The Ruminations on America Project)
How do you trust a country that cannot keep its word?

How do you trust a country that allows decisions to be made by leaders not elected for their integrity, but because their beliefs were accepted by "the party" that chose them to be their candidate, and "the party" had enough money to finance the campaign?
How do you trust a country that says it supports you for standing for what it believes in, and then turns its back on you unless you sing your own praises, and publicize your accomplishments, and tell your supporters how wonderful they are for the warm feelings they give you?
How do you trust a country that allows a soldier who refuses to participate in war crimes to be sent to prison for 15 months, and allows a slap on the hand for soldiers who burn bodies, desecrate religious material and openly abuse a culture they do not understand?
How do you trust a people when there are those who believe that the greatest way to protest the indiscretions of our administration is to commit flagrant, planned indiscretions of their own?

That's a powerful essay Monica Benderman has written. I hope you check it out. Monica Benderman is one of those voices you won't hear in the New York Times (check out C.I.'s "Other Items" from this morning). Monica Benderman's essay reminded me of a quote by H.G. Wells.

"Peace Quotes" (Peace Center):
A time will come when a politician who has willfully made war and promoted international dissension will be as sure of the dock and much surer of the noose than a private homicide. It is not reasonable that those who gamble with men's lives should not stake their own.
H.G. Wells

Monday, November 28, 2005

In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery?"

Remember to check out Mike's comments at Mikey Likes It! because we've picked the same two items from Democracy Now!

UK investigates Shootings by Private Contractors in Iraq (Democracy Now!)
The British Foreign Office is investigating allegations that private contractors with the defense company Aegis have randomly shot at Iraqi cars. According to the Telegraph newspaper, a video recently appeared on a site affiliated with Aegis that contained four clips of an unidentified gunman shooting at cars in Iraq. In one clip a Mercedes is fired on at a distance of several hundred yards before it crashes in to a civilian taxi. One Iraqi Interior Ministry officials confirmed such shootings occur. He said: "When the security companies kill people they just drive away and nothing is done... I would say we have had about 50-60 incidents of this kind."

England's investigating and I'm not sure how many people will assume "British company, England's investigation . . . Uh oh, England's in trouble!"

"Shameless in Iraq" (Naomi Klein, The Nation):
Good news out of Baghdad: the Program Management Office, which oversees the $18.4 billion in US reconstruction funds, has finally set a goal it can meet. Sure, electricity is below prewar levels, streets are rivers of sewage and more Iraqis have been fired than hired. But now the PMO has contracted with British mercenary firm Aegis to protect its employees from "assassination, kidnapping, injury and"--get this--"embarrassment." I don't know if Aegis will succeed in protecting PMO employees from violent attack, but embarrassment? I'd say mission already accomplished. The people in charge of rebuilding Iraq can't be embarrassed, because clearly they have no shame.
In the run-up to the June 30 underhand (sorry, I can't bring myself to call it a "handover"), US occupation powers have been unabashed in their efforts to steal money that is supposed to aid a war-ravaged people. The State Department has taken $184 million earmarked for drinking water projects and moved it to the budget for the lavish new US Embassy in Saddam's former palace. Short $1 billion for the embassy, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said he might have to "rob from Peter in my fiefdom to pay Paul." In fact, he is robbing Iraq's people, who, according to a recent study by Public Citizen, are facing "massive outbreaks of cholera, diarrhea, nausea and kidney stones" from drinking contaminated water.

The reason for the quote above is to make sure we all get that the Pentagon, United States, was over awarding contracts. Aegis wouldn't be there, British company or not, without having been awarded a contract by the Pentagon.

C.I. and I were talking about this on the phone today. We wondered how that story would play because although we love Naomi Klein's writing, we're aware that if you don't watch or listen to Democracy Now! (or read) and you don't read either The Nation or The Guardian, you might not be aware of the work she's done explaining the occupation. If you've depended on the US mainstream media, you could read the headline and think, "Oh England's in trouble!" I know I have a few readers who are new to Democracy Now!, The Common Ills, et al. So I want to be sure we're all on the same page.

Al Jazeera Demands Answers from Bush Administration (Democracy Now!)
The director-general of the Arabic tv network Al-Jazeera has demanded Washington respond to reports that President Bush wanted to bomb the network's headquarters in Doha. Last week the Daily Mirror cited a secret British memo revealing that Bush told Tony Blair last year of his desire to bomb the news outlet. The Bush administration has described the Daily Mirror's report as "outlandish." Officials at Al Jazeera are now questioning whether the U.S. might have been targeting the network when it bombed its bureaus in Afghanistan in 2001 and in Baghdad in April 2003. The attack in Iraq killed Al Jazeera's correspondent Tariq Ayub. Ayub's widow, Dina, said she is now considering suing the U.S. government for her husband's death. She said "America always claimed it was an accident. But I believe the new revelations prove that claim was false or at least not trustworthy." Meanwhile in Britain a ban remains in place on all media outlets from disclosing the contents of the secret memo. But a member of parliament - Boris Johnson - has vowed to publish the memo and risk jail time if anyone leaks him the document.

A network is the topic of a bombing discussion by two world leaders. Is there a reason that the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune aren't digging deeply into this story? This isn't news? A former football player is busted and that's all I heard about walking through the airport Sunday. I'd pass a TV set, that was the big talk, someone had a radio on, that was the story. I get in the cab, that's the story on the radio.

I'm not really sure what the fate of a football player has to do with our world. I'm also shocked by the gossip passing as "reporting" on that. I don't want to make that the focus but I do want to point out that there's been no trial.

But to the press, this is a news story to focus on. For some reason, a discussion about attacking a news network isn't.

It's similar to how they can't find the anti-war voices even at this late date. If you missed C.I.'s
"NYT: 'Even Supporters Doubt President As Issues Pile Up" (Kate Zernike)," the New York Times still wants to do stories about people who supported the war only now they've maybe changed their minds. Apparently that paper is allergic (still) to the voices speaking out against the war before the invasion.

(Also check out Danny Schechter's "WAR ON THE MEDIA: 'Don't Bomb Us.'")

"Peace Quotes" (Peace Center):
In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery?
St. Augustine