Friday, May 05, 2006

Damu Smith, peace activist (1952-2006)

Mike and I are blogging but neither of us is promising much. Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts.

"Damu Smith, 1952-2006" (Democracy Now!):
And finally, legendary peace activist Damu Smith died earlier this morning. The founder of Black Voices for Peace and the National Black Environmental Justice Network, Damu spent years fighting environmental racism, particularly in the south. He was a key leader in the anti-Apartheid movement and fought police brutality in Washington, DC and around the country. Damu was diagnosed with colon cancer last year while on a peace mission in the Occupied Territories. He then not only fought for his life, but against racial disparities in the health care system. Damu is survived by his daughter Aisha and his legacy lives on in all those who fight for justice.

Damu Smith's passing is the main reason I'm blogging tonight. He came on Democracy Now! to talk about his colon cancer in August of last year. But even in that appearance, he was focused on so many other things -- fighting until the end. Fighting for justice until the end, I should say. He made his life about something more than the immediate. In a nation of "I got mine," he fought for racial equality and social justice. The peace mission noted was a march for the rights of Palestinians. He collapsed and that's when he knew something was wrong. His life is the type of story that provides an example and a way for many of us. But it's just this sort of life that won't get the front page write up that the New York Times and others will shower over war criminal Henry Kissinger when he finally passes. I'm tired but knowing that Smith's death wouldn't receive the attention his life warrants made me decide to blog. I can't get Smith on the front page of the New York Times but I can note his passing here.

Along with coverage in the headlines, Amy Goodman and company also provided this today:
"Damu Smith 1952-2006: Legendary Peace Activist Dies After Battle with Colon Cancer." If you missed it, you can listen to audio of the segment, watch video or read the transcript (all three options are up).

"Bush Admin. Accused of Funding Somalian Warlords" (Democracy Now!):
In Somalia, the Bush administration is being accused of fermenting unrest through the support of warlords fighting Islamic militants in Mogadishu. A Somali government spokesperson said the US government's backing is helping fuel a civil war that has led to many civilian deaths. Some 90 people were killed during the fighting in March -- the worst violence Somalia has seen in years.

Will the groups throwing themselves (in supplication) before the Bully Boy for his "help" on Darfur now turn around and ask a foreign leader to help them address the issue of Bully Boy?

We've got a war criminal and we delude ourselves that we can channel the Bully into the Sudan. And then what? We fence him how?

Don't even get me started.

I'm looking online for some other news to note and I went to Google. C.I.'s correct, they are listing Voice of America as a "news source." Since Voice of America isn't supposed to broadcast in the United States (forbidden to by law), why does it have a web site and why is Google listing it as a news source?

That's a real issue. Not nonsense about some lame ass comedian. (Yes, I'm referring to today's 'incident.' ) I believe it's the Smith-Mundt Act which forbids them from broadcasting directly to Americans. (Short wave radios can pick up VoA in the United States.)

Google shouldn't be listing them as a news source. They are propaganda and that's why they're broadcast in foreign countries.

I see Bully Boy went to a parade and visited some wounded soldiers -- hoping his sinking polls will rise. It's three years to late.

If you missed it, West Point is trying to force a group of anti-war vets from West Point from using "West Point" in their title. In 2000, the government trademarked that phrase as well as, among others, "U.S. Military." You can't trademark what the citizens own. Until Bully Boy decides to put the army on the privatization chopping block, Americans still own it.

That's my contribution to tonight's discussion.

"Iraq Snapshot" (Democracy Now: Damu Smith remembered, Ray McGovern . . ., The Common Ills):
Iraq snapshot.
Chaos and violence continue.
KPFA's The Morning Show, Sandra Lupien's newsbreaks, covered the developing story of the US attack on Ramadi. Austalia's ABC notes that at least 13 people died in that attack.
CNN reports that Iraq's Interior Ministry has announced that "army Brig. Gen. Mohammed Abdul Latif was gunned down in the western Yarmouk neighborhood as he drove to work." (That occurred Thursday.)
On Monday, we noted: " FOCUS News Agency notes that Denmark's 539 troops may be reduced to 400 this month (May 18th)." Today, Reuters reports that Denmark has decided to make no reduction, they will switch some to "U.N. duties" ("a small net reduction in the force of 530 of 10 to 40"). Later today, AP reported that Denmark was indeed going to reduce their troops (by 80). Reuters also reports that the issue of Polish troops in Iraq is something Andrzej Lepper (deputy prime minister in charge of agriculture) intends to address: "We are still against out military presence there and if it comes to a vote in parliament, we will oppose (extending the stay)," he said. Meanwhile, Australia plans to send 460 additional troops to Iraq.
Corpses continue to surface in Iraq. China's
Xinhua reports that five corpses ("riddled with bullets"; "signs of torture") were discovered in Ramadi. The Associated Press notes the discovery of five more corpses with "four in Baghdad and one on the outskirts of the city."Explosions also continued in Iraq. The Associated Press reports the death of three American troops in Babil -- resulting from a roadside bombing. In Mosel, KUNA reports, a bomb wounded an Iraqi soldier. In Baghdad, gunfire claimed the life of Maj. Ali Hamid (Iraqi police officer).
On this issue of Iraqi soldiers,
John Berman reported for ABC news on the "graduation ceremony for 978 recruits" which quickly dropped to half that figure as "[t]hey began taking off their uniforms when they learned they would not be stationed in their hometowns."
Near Kirkuk (where no one wants to report from -- see oil "blaze" last week),
Reuters reports the kidnapping of "six oil engineers for Iraq's Northern Oil company."
Bad news for two blood lusters:
Tony Blair's having to juggle his cabinet and Bully Boy's got another poll (AP-Ipsos) to try to spin (poll found only 33% feel he's doing a good job). (Bully Boy will have to juggle as well with Porter Goss stepping down from the CIA.)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Gary Leupp has an amazing article at CounterPunch

Rebecca wants it noted that Janis Karpinski is the guest on KPFA's Flashpoints tonight. She's talking about the events (especially the humiliation and torture of women prisoners in Abu Ghraib) and Dennis Bernstein (host of Flashpoints) is prompting her to connect the dots on the chain of command to the top. The interview's going on right now. (I just started listening.) If you miss it use the archives at KPFA or at Flashpoints.

"Iraqi Ambulance Worker Killed By US Security Contractors" (Democracy Now!)
Meanwhile, an unidentified Iraqi ambulance worker was killed Tuesday when he was shot by a group of American security contractors. The worker's colleague, Abu Ali, described the attack: "We were driving here to deliver a case (to the hospital) when a bomb went off close to a passing convoy of Americans. They (the Americans) opened fire on him, shooting him in his heart. Their sniper shot him twice and one of them in his heart. What is his crime? We are ambulance drivers who help people during attacks. What have we done wrong?"

Another death, another Iraqi death, that shouldn't have happened. It shouldn't have happened because the administration should never have launched an illegal war based on lies. It shouldn't have happened because we shouldn't be occuyping Iraq. Finally, it shouldn't have happened because there are rules of engagement and you do not target health care providers.

"Lt. Gen. Sanchez Told Troops To “Go To Outer Limits” With Detainees" (Democracy Now!):
Back in the United States, the release of thousands of de-classified military documents is raising new questions about the role of senior army commanders in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. According to the ACLU, the documents show Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former top U.S. military commander in Iraq, urged his troops to "go to the outer limits" to extract information from prisoners. Previously released documents have linked Sanchez to the use of army dogs during interrogations.

I heard Janis Karpinski tell Dennis Bernstein that Sanchez sidestepped a question in front of Congress. They need to call him back to testify. If you're wanting to know about that, you can listen to tonight's Flashpoints. Rebecca will be writing about the show (for the whole week) tomorrow. C.I.'s long argued (with each development) that the news, if it's put into context (which the corporate media doesn't do) leads straight up to the top. If Bully Boy and the others want to play the I'm-A-Dope card, that's not a get out of jail free card. If they don't want to take responsibilty for their crimes, then they're still guilty of dereliction of duty.

C.I. e-mailed an article that Mia noted and then called Sunny to ask her to tell me to check my e-mail. I did at lunch and read it with amazement. What?

"Out of Iraq, Into Darfur" (Gary Leupp, CounterPunch):
For many months now I've occasionally received emails asking me, "Why are you spending so much time attacking Bush Middle East policy, and ignoring the atrocities in Darfur?" There are many reasons I haven't written on it, including the fact that I put opposing imperialist wars with their murderous consequences at the top of my list of things to do in my spare time, and the fact that I haven't much studied the situation in Darfur. But I've sensed for awhile that some forces are using the alleged "genocide" in that region to divert attention from the ongoing slaughter in Iraq (and ongoing brutalization of the Palestinians by Israel), and to depict another targeted Arab regime as so villainous as to require what the neocons call "regime change." They've mischaracterized the conflict as one between "Arabs" and "indigenous Africans" whereas (as I understand it) all parties involved are Arabic-speaking black Africans---"Arab" "African" and "black" being distinctions more complicated than most Americans realize.
I'd ask those holding those signs yesterday to recall that in November 2001 a general at the Pentagon told Gen. Wesley Clark that in the wake of 9-11 the administration had "a five-year campaign plan" to attack not only Afghanistan but "Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Somalia." I'd ask Working Assets to observe that the Iraq War it opposes and the Sudan intervention is endorses are in fact part of that same empire-building campaign plan.
Last June a UN commission determined that what has been taking place in Darfur, however awful, does not constitute a genocidal policy by the Sudanese government. But Washington decided otherwise, and used the highly emotional concepts of genocide and "holocaust" to describe the situation.

Leupp's written an amazing article. I can imagine the heat he will take for it. (Judging by the e-mails that were sent to C.I. by people outside The Common Ills community, he will take heat for it.) I think every word he wrote needed to be written. Read the article and, remember, we're addressing Sudan at The Third Estate Sunday Review this Sunday. Jim really wishes C.I. would address it at The Common Ills right now. But it fits into another feature that will go up there so C.I. is holding off. (C.I. asked us to think about something on Sunday and we did. We'll present it Sunday.) But knowing Jim was on C.I.'s case to do it now at The Common Ills, I laughed when I realized that was the highlight Mia had sent. There's not been a lot of writing about this issue. There's been a lot of "Get on the Force Wagon!" cries. I am very disappointed that Working Assets is joining the Force Wagon crew.

Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts. For the Force Wagon crew, a little reality:

"Iraq snapshot" ("Democracy Now! the case of Sami Al-Arian," The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continues.
Corpses turned up throughout the day in Baghdad. The Associated Press began the day noting the discovery of fifteen bodies. Mark Willacy, with Australia's ABC, noted 34 corpses. The number would climb further, reaching 36 corpses, as noted by AFP. Jim Muir of the BBC noted that the first 14 corpses (found "blindfolded, bound and showed signs of torture") bore the "hallmarks . . . of a sectarian attack." Al Jazeera notes the '[h]undreds of bodies . . . discovered across Iraq in recent months, apparently part of a wave of sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims that has ripped through the country since the bombing of a Shia shrine in February." In Nibai, three corpses were found Tuesday ("tortured and shot"). Today, in Tikrit, "[a] roadside bomb exploded near an elementary school for girls."
Also updated since this morning is the death toll from the suicide bombing in Falluja. Reuters reports that the number killed has now reached at least 18. Reuters notes Dr. Bilal Mahmoud who says that twenty additional people were wounded and "most" remain in "critical condition." In Baquba, CNN notes, the death of one police officer and another left wounded from gunfire. Reuters notes that as well as another death of a police officer with three more officers wounded while attempting to disarm a bomb.
Australia's ABC notes the death of four college students in Baghdad. "[I]nsurgents . . . set up a checkpoint and stopped a bus full of college students . . . then dragged four students off the bus and shot them in the head by the side of the road." Also in Baghdad, college professor Riyadh Hadi was shot "oustide the University of Mustansiriya." Iraqi police reported the death (by gunshot) of Jawad Kadom -- "the No. 3 official in Iraq's electricity ministry." Finally in Baghdad, "[t]he driver and two escorrts of the deputy speaker of Parliment, Khalid al-Attiya" were shot by . . . Iraqi sodliers who maintain the vehicle refused to stop at their checkpoint.
In Najaf, families of the 15 missing police officers demonstrated demanding answers.
AFP notes that the freeing of Rene Braeunlich and Thomas Nitzschke, the two German hostages freed yesterday, has led to reports in the German press "that money had been paid to secure their release." CNN notes that: "The Foreign Ministry would not disclose details of their release, citing standard policy." The men were kidnapped on January 24th.
Jake Kovco was the first Australian soldier killed in Iraq. In news from Australia, Paul Pardoel, the first Australian pilot killed in Iraq, suffered a death that could have been prevented, "British pilots say", "if the plane had been fitted with a safety device." The Sydney Morning Herald reports: In a statement, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) acknowledged that the RAF board of inquiry into the crash had found the lack of a fuel tank inerting system had been among the contributing factors.
Finally, Ewen MacAskill is reporting "US forces are switching tactics in Iraq to take a less confrontational approach to civilians in response to criticism from British military commanders that they have been too tough" (Guardian of London).

Peace quote? Reality quote? There's both in Rebecca's "goldie's (and marlene's) house party last weekend to end the war" so please read that.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Grab bag post

C.I.'s gotten some mail from visitors on my post last night. Jess told me about it. So Mike and I both relaxed this evening because we wanted Betty to have the "announcement." You have to be a community member and a careful reader. If you are, you'll know we're addressing it at The Third Estate Sunday Review this Sunday.

"Over 1.5 Million March in MayDay Immigration Protests" (Democracy Now!):
Over 1.5 million people took part in May Day demonstrations to support immigrant rights in one of the largest days of protest in the country's history. Across the nation immigrants refused to go to work or school in what was dubbed "A Day Without Immigrants." Major demonstrations were held in dozens of cities across the country. In Chicago organizers said up to 700,000 people took to the streets. Over a half million marched in Los Angeles. In Denver, at least 75,000 people -- about one-sixth of the city’s population -- participated in a march on the state capitol. 50,000 people gathered in a series of protests in Florida. In New York City, over 100,000 marched from Union Square down Broadway. Thousands of businesses closed for at least part of the day in solidarity. Students walked out of classes across the country. In Los Angeles about one in every four students was absent. In Chicago as many as one-third of students didn’t go to school. The Associated Press reported at least 1.1 million people took part in the protests but that estimate was based solely on police accounts. Organizers in several cities said the turnout would have been even larger but many undocumented immigrants were afraid to come out following recent immigration raids.

For some comments on May Day, visit Mike and Cedric tonight. They're both planning to discuss WBAI's Law and Disorder. Read C.I.'s "NYT: Millions protest so the Times highlights Small Business and the Minutemen." I was rushing this morning and walk into the office still half-asleep to hear Sunny hollering. It was in agreement with C.I.'s entry. I hadn't had a chance to read it yet, so she insisted upon reading it to me. If you care about social justice and felt like the New York Times had hiked up it's back leg and "showered" you this morning. Sunny said, "They should be ashamed." They should be.

I get irritated when they (intentionally?) fail to report on the peace protests accurately. But it is a whole different feeling when you see them spitting on immigrants. Which is, let's be honest, what the paper did. They've rendered them voiceless by focusing on business -- as those business was protesting for their "rights." Well maybe the oil companies, they did manage to kill Bill Frist's laughable proposal that would have done little for the people and really, considering their huge profits, wouldn't have been a drop in the bucket for big oil.

So business had a a forum repeatedly in the paper but they've had no time to focus on the immigrants. If you think about it, that's how they treated them before the demonstrations and that's still how the New York Times treats them. The whole point of the protests is for everyone to wake up and realize how many immigrants are here, how they do contribute to this country and how are this is very much their country. The demonstrations are an effort to be heard and when the paper renders them invisible, while they're fighting to be heard, it's all the more insulting.

I agree with C.I., the turn out has to be at least two million. That's not counting those who participated in some form without attending the demonstrations. That would include people who were not able to take time off from work (I'm one) or who were unable to attend due to fears about INS and the police.

"Sami Al-Arian Sentenced to 18 More Months in Jail" (Democracy Now!):
In Florida, a federal judge has sentenced the Palestinian professor and activist Sami Al Arian to another 18 months in prison. Al-Arian has been at the center of one of the most closely watched -- and controversial -- post 9/11 prosecutions. He was arrested over three years ago and accused of being a leader of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad. In December a jury acquitted him of eight of the 17 federal charges against him and the jury deadlocked on the rest. The verdict was a major defeat for Bush administration prosecutors. Last month Al-Arian signed a plea agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to a lesser version of one of the charges and be deported.

I thought the plea baragain was a huge mistake. I understand why he did it. The government would have continued to attempt to try him. But I didn't think they'd just let him go if he signed an agreement. I doubt he'll be out in 18 months. Short of pressure on the government, he won't be out in 18 months and I think you're going to see less support because, with the plea agreement made, some will say, "Well he did plead guilty." I really think it was a huge mistake. It allowed a lot of people to avoid the issue and now the government can do whatever they want. I hope I'm wrong. I'm not saying, "This will happen!" I'm not Cokie Roberts or any of the others ones passing off predictions as fact. But my fear with the agreement was that it was an effort by the government to dilute support for Al-Arian.

"Bush: Iraq At A Turning Point (Again)" (Democracy Now!):
Meanwhile President Bush announced on Monday that the formation of a new Iraqi government marks a turning point in the war. His comments came three years to the day after he proclaimed that major combat operations were over while standing under a banner that read Mission Accomplished. On Monday he spoke briefly on the White Hose lawn while standing next to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, both of whom had just returned from Iraq. "We believe this is a turning point for the Iraqi citizens and it's a new chapter in our partnership," Bush said. "The secretaries began building this new partnership during their trip. In other words, the Iraqi leaders saw that we are committed to helping them succeed." This doesn't mark the first time the president has declared Iraq has reached a turning point. He did so back in June 2004 when the occupying U.S. forces announced they would transfer sovereignty back to the Iraqi people. Bush also said the 2005 election in Iraq would mark a turning point.

Cedric's going to dig back three years tonight (if he has time, he's got a lot to cover.) I love Democracy Now! for putting the "(Again)" in the title. It is more Operation Happy Talk. It's not reality, though some will mistake it for that. I don't wonder about them. They're going to be on board long after the ship has sunk -- they'll point to air bubbles rising above them to the surface and say, "Oh look, pretty."

They avoid the realities of Iraq. You shouldn't. Last highlight.

"Democracy Now: Over 1.5 Million March for Immigrant Rights and DN! takes you to the voices" (The Common Ills):
Iraq snapshot.
First, and important, 70 American troops did not die in the month of April. As
Elaine (rightly) noted yesterday, the government sits on its figures (which are questioned by many as is). So the reports were that 70 died in the month of April. The reality, that the administration attempts to sneak out, is that 76 died for the month of April.
Today, starting in Australia, Jake Kovco was laid to rest.
Australia's ABC notes that "mourners gathered at the Mechanic's Institute hall in his home town of Briagalong." Damien Murphy of the Sydney Morning Herald notes that 25 year-old Jake Kovco was the first Australian soldier to die in Iraq and that over 500 people attended the funeral. Among the family attending were his son Tyrie (age four) and his daughter Alana (11 months old). Among the music played, Murphy reports, were Nirvana's "Come As You Are" and James Blunt's "Goodbye My Lover." AFP notes that, in Baghdad, Australian troops held a pre-dawn service this morning. AFP also points out that the initial details emerging from the autopsy indicate that Kovco's death was not a suicide. Most reports are noting Shelley Kovco's statement, "He's just going to be in our hearts, but the SAS missed out on a bloody good soldier." Along with his wife (Shelley Kovco) an children, his parents (Martin and Judy), the funeral was also attended by Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Defense Minister Brendan Nelson. From Murphy's report: "Former classmates and teachers were at the funeral, standing alongside townsfolk, Vietnam veterans, WWII veterans and fellow 3RAR soldiers, many of whom cried openly as Blunt's song echoed down the main street."
In Iraq, the
Hindustan Times reports that Sibi Kora had died from a landmine. Kora, from India, had been "working in Kuwait for the last eight months" as a truck driver. Reuters reports that three corpses have been found in Yusufiya ("tortured and shot"). Corpses were also found in Baghdad including four ("bullet holes in their heads") found by police and 65 that are at the Yarmouk hospital ("mostly died from gunshot wounds . . . others were beheaded. . . . [among the dead] three schoolteachers who were gunned down." AFP notes that two more corpses were found (in Tikrit and Kirkuk). The Associated Press notes that an additional four corpses were found in Suwayrah.As the violence and chaos continues, in Buhriz, two civilians were kidnapped. In Ramadi, Maamoun Sami Rasheed's mortocade was attacked by a bomber leading to the death of at least three (with no word on Rasheed who is the "Anbar province governor"). In Baquba, an Iraq was "shot dead." This was a security guard and appears to be the same incident the AP reports "north of Baqouba," where a guard is killed and "the quarry owner's son" is kidnapped.
In Baghdad, drive by shootings have claimed the lives of at least two. The BBC notes that "a bomb planted inside a minibus" went of in a market and claimed the lives of at least two and wounded at least five. "South of Baghdad" was where a roadside bomb claimed the life of the first US solider to die in the month of May (Monday, 9:50 pm). At least three other roadside bombs have gone off in Baghdad today, claiming the lives of at least two and wounding at least four.
Reuters reports that,
in Baghdad, "U.S. private security contractors shot dead an Iraqi ambulance crewman." Though the Bremmer laws have led many to think there are no laws in Baghdad, Dahr Jamail's "Iraqi Hospitals Ailing Under Occupation" explains just what international laws, conventions and treaties do apply (regardless of the Bremmer laws). CNN reports that Reuters reports that another ambulance crew member said: "They opened fire and shot him in the heart. We are an ambulance crew, who help people when there are bombings. What did we do wrong?"
Barbara Starr reported for CNN on a military investigation into whether Iraqi civilians ("including women and children") were deliberatley murdered "by U.S. Marines in Haditha last November." And Ryan Lenz reports for the Associated Press on the increase in the need for donated blood on the battlefield in Iraq (which is, presumably, everywhere as defined by the US administration) -- demand "has grown 400 percent since the war in Iraq began."

Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts. Oh, one more item.

"stephen colbert spits on women (past and present) and the web and e&p don't see the problem" (Rebecca, Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude):
read that b.s. and you'll realize why the work ava and c.i. do is so sorely needed. e & p offers commentary in spots. they never question the sexist remark, the sexist assumption that all reporters are male (or straight and married). must be a pretty diverse crowd over at e & p - what, you've got the white man who drinks jack daniels, the white man who drinks beer and the white man who doesn't drink anything?
that's a pretty observant bunch, huh? supposed reporters that can say a damn word when the 'funny' guy renders all women invisible with that remark - pretty damn disgusting.
helen thomas doesn't go home to her wife.
and guess what? she's not alone.
not anymore.
in the old days, it was helen thomas, sarah mcclendon and a smattering of others like may craig.
when they started out they had to prove they could do the job because, back then, it was assumed that reporters were naturally male.
back then.
back when?
last night.
to pretend that stephen colbert did not utter an insulting remark is surely an act of desperation and those rushing to applaud him might want to check themselves real damn quick.
it's not funny. it's not cute.
in a room full of a large number of female journalists, he insulted all women.
in a room that was only open to the female gender because of mavericks like thomas and mcclendon, he insulted all women, past and present, living and dead.

Monday, May 01, 2006

"God protect us from the fools that we elected to protect us!"

Usually on Monday's, I offer a summary of radio program. I wasn't able to listen today. I did go into work (C.I.'s correct that to back out of sessions, I need a huge lead time in terms of a heads up). Friday, I had told Sunny to take the day off because she wanted to take part and there was no reason in both of us missing out. (Take part in the immigration rallies today, I'm starting mid-stream.) Though I wasn't able to "call off," I did avoid purchasing anything. Even when temptation was there -- I had packed a lunch and the yogurt had gone bad (or was bad when I purchased it last night) and it just contaminated the fruits (an orange and an apple) -- or I felt it did. I could smell the sour smell on them. Probably that was in my mind. I was going over some paperwork (billing paper work) and reached for the phone. I forgot until I'd dialed "no purchases." So I hung up.

Sunny does a huge job and that's clear when she's there but, when she's not, it's even more so. When she first started (a few years back), I'd walk through during the day, and she'd always jerk and hide her book or her magazine. When I realized that was what was going on (I'd thought she just startled easily), I told her, "If you can do your job and read at your desk or whatever, don't worry about it." She can do that and a great deal more. There are moments that I know must be deadly boring but there are also hectic times and she handles it all. So, Sunny, if you read this tomorrow in the office, again, "Thank you, for all you do."

I tried to pay attention to Democracy Now!, I did have it on, but there was just too much to do today. I got a better idea of the show, in fact, when Mike and I were reading over the headlines this evening to select what we'd highlight. Please visit Mikey Likes It! for his thoughts.

"Three Years Ago: Bush Declared Missions Accomplished in Iraq" (Democracy Now!):
In news on Iraq, it was three years ago today that President Bush declared mission accomplished and major combat operations over. Meanwhile the U.S. death toll in Iraq has topped 2,400. 70 soldiers died in April making it the deadliest month for U.S. troops so far this year.

I heard the 2,400 number from C.I. this weekend. I remember we all just sort of stared. What do you say to that? The war was an illegal one built upon lies. Remember when the 2000 mark was news? Or the 1000 mark? Or when we were at 700 and whatever and Nightline did the special noting the name of each American troop who had died in Iraq?

On the 70 in April, I'll wait a few days. I know the official count is "fudged" since you have to die while in Iraq. If you're transported out of the country and die while receiving medical treatment or die later from your wounds (and you're not in Iraq), you don't go into that total. But the administration also has a habit of a few days into a new month, after the total's been reported, suddenly releasing news of other deaths for the previous month.

On the issue of the dying itself, I don't know. A peace movement doesn't happen overnight. That I know. But there are times, with the mainstream media, that you have to wonder are they even living in the same world? (Probably not, press passes squeak a lot of wheels.) I think the alternative media has been good about getting the word out. Better than good, they've done an excellent job. Amy Goodman tops the list but everyone has done a wonderful job. The peace movement itself has done a wonderful job, especially when you consider what it's been up against. I'm a huge supporter of United for Peace and Justice. That said, I do think new life needs to be brought into the demonstrations.

Check "Music Roundtable" for thoughts on that. I'll also add that after the roundtable was done, Jayson reminded Wally and I of another comment we were hearing. I wished he'd spoken up in the roundtable. A lot of people we spoke to were bothered by the demonstration on Sunday. The peace rally was known for some time, the rallies going on today were announced ahead of time. I have no idea when the Darfur rally was announced but people we spoke to said it was put together quickly and that they were really offended that they would "split" the causes like that. If you were traveling to either demonstration Saturday or Sunday, more than likely, you had to make a choice. Will I go to DC? Will I go to NYC?

When Jayson brought that up, I think C.I. said it best: "If you've got the Monterey Pop Festival on Saturday and Woodstock on Monday, you don't try to squeeze in Live Aid on Sunday." Regardless of when it was planned, I think it hurt. I think it hurt it's own cause and I think it hurt the peace rally. In terms of hurting it's own cause, there were people Wally, Jayson and I spoke to who would have liked to have attended. "Why did it have to be this weekend?" was the question repeated on that. I would have tried to attend. (C.I. did.) If it was another day, I would have tried to attend. It hurt the peace event if there were people who made the choice to go to DC that would have been in NYC if the two events hadn't been one right after the other. It hurt both causes because they were weekend events which were not going to get much press attention (print) until Monday. So on Monday, they were competing with one another for limited press coverage. (Though Darfur got more because it had the political approval of some elected officials.) I hope they had more than the "tens of thousands" that was used. The peace rally had 350,000 people and some press reports were saying "tens of thousands" early on. (We checked for figures at the event and were told at least 300,000 so that's what we went with at The Third Estate Sunday Review, but the figure is over 350,000.)

It may not have hurt attendence in NYC. Jess called when I was leaving the office this evening and from the reports and photos the press has run, it was a different crowd. But there were people at the NYC event that would have liked to have attended the DC one if there had been more space between the two. Jess asked what I thought of a musical for The Third Estate Sunday Review this week? He's run the idea by Kat, Rebecca and C.I. and they're fine with it. (The four of them even have one song roughed out.) (That may seem off topic, but if the song is used, you'll see it isn't.) I'm all for it. I think it would be an interesting and creative way to address events and I think we sorely need to interject news elements into the movement. As I noted in "Music Roundtable," there was a feeling of burnout on the part of some who attended. That doesn't need to set in. (I am not insulting the demonstration. I give praise to everyone who organized it, worked on it and attended. It was a wonderful moment. But it needs to be built upon.)

"Report: Bush Claims Authority To Disobey Over 750 Laws" (Democracy Now!):
A major investigation by the Boston Globe has revealed President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office. In each case the president has issued a so-called "signing statement" that asserts that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution. According to the Globe, Bush has issued a signing statement to more than one of every 10 bills he has signed. Bush has said he can ignore Congress' ban on torture as well as Congressional oversight of the Patriot Act. Bush has also said he can ignore laws forbidding US troops from engaging in combat in Colombia and any attempt by Congress to oversee what happens in military prisons such as Abu Ghraib. NYU law professor David Golove has warned that Bush's actions threaten to overturn the existing structures of constitutional law. Golove said that having a president who ignores the court, backed by a Congress that is unwilling to challenge him can make the Constitution simply ''disappear."

Of course he does. Just as he bragged to Tom Brokaw that he seeks out a "higher" father than his own, he doesn't feel bound by laws. When you can talk to God, why bother with the Constitution? Does God speak back? Or does Bully Boy have to do both parts? (As Diane Keaton jokes in Love and Death.) We are in a very dangerous area right now. Those screaming for force regarding Darfur not only fail to grasp that there has been no real attempt at peaceful means from foreign countries, they also appear unaware of the damage an unbound Bully Boy can bring.

"Sarandon tells of Iraq death threat" (Anushka Asthana, The Observer):
But she said that every time anything happened the Republicans would 'try to play that card' and criticised the Democrats for failing to stand up to Bush. 'There was no reason for Hillary Clinton, for instance, to vote (for the war), for John Kerry to vote, they were protecting their reputations. They crumbled under the pressure and it was a very lonely, very scary time to ask a question. That's a horrible condition to exist in a democracy.'

That was almost the reality quote for the night. Susan Sarandon spoke up and suffered extreme attacks for it. Not just from "talk radio" in the traditional sense. She was trashed by sports radio, the United Way made a point to draw a line between her and themselves. (Thereby losing any support from me. I had contributed despite the corruption scandals. When they drew their line and she was uninvited from the Florida event, they lost my support.)

That's what discourages me actually. This is the media we're speaking of. Bully Boy can bluster and lie but the media failed to keep him in check and allowed a climate to build where someone speaking out (Sarandon, Tim Robbins, the Dixie Chicks, Linda Ronstadt, go down the list) could be attacked openly, vicisouly in ways that you'd never imagine. (On Linda, C.I. would point out that the media reports were largely wrong on what actually happened. That was true of the "reporting" on Pearl Jam as well.)

Let me talk Pearl Jam for a minute. There's a little __ that C.I. and I know. I think she's the most fake person in the world and have thought that for years. (I observed her, years ago, at a party going on repeatedly about how good she was. Someone who's actually trying to do good neither needs to give themselves so much p.r. or to obsess over it.) To this day, she mainstains she's a hippie. (I have no problems with hippies. Real ones.) But she drives her gas guzzling, V6, SUV that she really doesn't need. She was a huge Pearl Jam fan. But she voted Bully Boy. In 2000 and 2004. Her big "issue" was the death penalty. I am opposed to the death penalty. I am not someone, however, who acts as though no crime was committed. She got close to someone on death row who was guilty, admitted he was guilty (of multiple murders) and expressed no regret. It was one of those "I'm bored with my kids, bored with my husband and bored with the boards I sit on" projects. She tried to get his journal published but kept running into a problem because there was interest, in publishing it in full. But she wanted to censor the parts where he was talking about what he did. Not because he expressed no remorse. (He didn't express any remorse, I know because she shoved it off on me after the execution thinking I could find some psychological meaning that would demonstrate that, somewhere in the subtext, he had.)

So my point here is, she lies to herself (to this day) about his guilt. (It's in his journal and, as far as I know, he didn't attempt to deny it at any point prior to the journal -- which he started after he was on death row.) So when she was voting Bully Boy in 2000 (I found out before C.I. because C.I.'s more clever about avoiding contact with her), I said to her, "Your issue is the death penalty. How can you vote for him with his record as governor?" She knew nothing about it. She didn't know about Carla Fay Tucker or anyone. When I told her about Tucker, she said it wasn't true. When I sent her press clippings, she responded they were lies.

Her Bully Boy would never do that. She was a huge fan of Pearl Jam, or Eddie Vedder at least, whom she was always attempting to invent ways to meet. (She did manage to get backstage at a few concerts -- rather sad considering her age, intent and the fact that she was married.) But she wrote off Pearl Jam after the press reports on the Colorado concert. I think it was a few months after when I made the mistake of picking up the phone without checking the caller ID.
(Besides changing the unlisted phone numbers regularly, C.I. has a system -- number of rings and pattern -- otherwise the service picks up. I should do something similar.) So I brought up Pearl Jam on the phone to her. Our "hippie" says they need to be run out of the country.

What's so funny about intolerance, liars and the aging deluded?

She explained she's even tossed away her DVD of Dead Man Walking. (A big thing for her due to the nature of the film.) Because of what Susan Sarandon had said publicly.

That's the Bully Boy crowd, the ones still hanging with him. I know Republicans who broke with him long ago. They stopped supporting him, they think there's nothing conservative about him. But if you're wondering who those people are who still delude themselves, that's her. They go through a pot phase every few years so they can still be "free spirits." They sell out their beliefs because "9/11 changed everything" and they lie about their hero the way they lie about their own lives. (If her husband reads this and thinks, "That's my wife!" -- oh well. Why did you think she was going all over the country on that one Pearl Jam tour? They weren't the Grateful Dead.)

They've given up cigarettes and look down on smokers. But they take a toke or two or three or four or more. Sometimes it means that their kids don't see them until noon. (The "help" can take care of breakfast.) Mommy's a little too strung out from her latest pot binge to cope. They'd leave their husbands if it didn't mean a loss in status and a loss in lifestyle (money). Those tax breaks are real important to them because it really is all about the money.

At one point she was involved in a huge land development deal (meaning her husband was) and our "hippie" had no qualms about destroying all those trees. "If we don't do this, someone else will. We'll do it right." By making it friendly to the environment? No. By tossing out a few bills to Greenpeace afterwards to purge any guilt.

That's who continues to stick by and stick up for him. They're law and order folks, except when they're toking. They're believers in the abolition of the death penalty, except they don't blame anyone actually responsible for the executions. They're environmentalists, until money enters the picture. They're happily married, as they unsuccessfully travel across the country attempting to bed a rock star. They're parents, who have trouble remembering their children's birthdays. (Thank God for the "help!")

They're also your "friend" -- when they need something. She only calls when she's traveling east and needs something from me. In terms of physical distance, she's closer to C.I. and I'm still amazed at how C.I. successfully avoids her. That may have to do somewhat with her attempts to crash a big party in 2005. She was turned away by security. I heard about it after. (I was at the party.) I said to C.I., "Why didn't you let me know!" I really would have enjoyed seeing that, especially so soon after the 2004 election. At some point, our side has to win a few. But I did hear about it at least. A month later, from her. How mortified she was because she'd brought a "few" friends. She kept explaining that, no, she didn't have an invitation but surely she was on the list.

I've just gone on at the mouth, haven't I? It was a long day. (Again, Sunny, "Thank you, you do an amazing job.") During lunch, Sunny and I talk about various things while we've got Democracy Now! on. (But never about work.) I'm also usually able to make a few calls during work (personal ones). Until I was leaving and Jess phoned, I had been in listening mode all day. So, if this has been too much chatter for you, my apologies.

Two bits of reality and then I'll post.

"Iraq snapshot" ("Democracy Now: James Green looks at May Day -- what happened, how it was reported," The Common Ills):
As May Day is celebrated even in Iraq (
national holiday) but not, apparently, today, the Associated Press reports that at least 200 Shi'ites demonstrated on the edges of the heavily Green Zone area of Baghdad "to demand that U.S. and Iraqi forces do more to stop insurgents attacks." This as China's People's Daily Online notes the United Kingdom's stated intent to draw down their troops in Iraq "to 800 next month" (from 8,000 currently). Meanwhile, FOCUS News Agency notes that Denmark's 539 troops may be reduced to 400 this month (May 18th). AFP reminds that it was three years today that Bully Boy stood in front of the "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln to state: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."
Far from Bully Boy's dress up and pretend, chaos and violence continues. In Baghdad,
Reuters reports that "[t]he wife and daughter of a former construction and houseing minister Omar al-Damluji were kidnapped" Sunday. Today, in Hawija, at least four were wounded when a roadside bomb went off near "an art college." The Associated Press notes that, in Haqlaniyah, a US military base was fired on ("two mortar shells"). Reuters reports that at least "[e]ight members of the Interior Ministry commandos" were wounded from a roadside bomb that went off in Samarra. Tikrit was also an area where roadside bombs exploded (no wounded or dead reported). In Iskandariya, at least one civilian was killed and two injured in a car bombing that also took the life of the person in the car.
In Baghdad today, the
Associated Press reports three corpses were discovered, "handcuffed and blindfolded" and that a Shi'ite store owner has died as a result of a drive-by shooting. At least two have been wounded in the three roadside bombs that have gone off today in Baghdad.
In the latest news on Australian solider Jake Kovco,
who died in Baghdad on April 21st, despite Australian Defense Minister Brendan Nelson's assertion (which is a bit of a twist on his past claims last week) that Kovco died from an "accidental firing of the weapon he was handling," reports on the autopsy do not, thus far, support that assertion. Reporting for the Sydney Morning Herald, Les Kennedy, Tom Allard and Cynthia Banham note: "THE forensic examination of Jacob Kovco's body revealed no evidence of burn marks near the wound, indicating the weapon that killed him was not fired close to his head. The finding appears to make it less likely that the young sniper -- Australia's first military fatality in Iraq -- committed suicide." Kennedy, Allard and Banham note that the bullet is missing and that, as the outrage over the death of Kovco, Australian's Prime Minister John Howard has announced that he will be attending the funeral. Jake Kovco is the first Australian soldier to die in Iraq.
Back in Iraq, the
Chicago Sun-Times reports that the US army is concerned with "Chicago gang graffiti" popping up throughout Iraq. And in the United States, as Bully Boy, who, again, exactly three years go declared "major combat operations," used the anniversary of that shameful moment to delcare his "confidence" in Iraqi leadership (or "leadership"). His new faith-based remarks come as CNN reports on their latest poll which found that 44% of Americans surveyed (4.5% +/- margin of error) "said the United States would never accomplish its goals in Iraq" and 40% of optimistic souls selected the "someday" option (someday goals will be accomplished). Bully Boy's at 32% approval rating in the poll and 55% of Americans chose the option of "the United States made a mistake by invading Iraq."

I think everyone who slammed Susan Sarandon or anyone else should be forced to read that -- out loud. In front of people. They should have to read it and then think about the way they attacked those who were speaking out against the war, the ones who have turned out to be right.

No peace quote tonight. I'm not in a peaceful mood. (Can you tell?) (That parenthetical was a joke.) Instead a reality quote.

"Reality Check" (Cindy Sheehan, "Mission Accomplished," BuzzFlash):
Before we the people need to be subjected to another swaggering spectacle from George after he has bombed Iran back into the stone ages and has made we the people of the United States of America even more hated around the world, it is time to rein him in ourselves. Congress won't do it and the media is falling into lockstep behind the murder again.

It is time to fire the warniks whose bloodlust cannot be slated and hire people who will finally use their wisdom, integrity, and non-violence to solve problems, and won't create imaginary problems out of smoke and mirrors. We need a Congress that will hold George accountable not one that is complicit in the war crimes.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said: "We must live together as brothers, or perish together as fools." God protect us from the fools that we elected to protect us!