First up, I want to get some news out of the way. I've had a long week (moving from Georgia to California at the start of it, starting my new job, my kids starting new schools) so I was looking for a way to have news without actually having to write anything. (I may not even be able to muster chatter. It's been a long week.) I mentioned that in "Help!" e-mail and Elaine immediately phoned and suggested Workers World.
Like Great Britain's Socialist Worker, they allow you to repost articles in full as long as you note that they wrote it and they have the copyright. It's a great way for their content and ideas to get out.
So I was looking through what they have and there were several things I thought about noting before I decided on the abortion piece. Even drive-bys tend to mention in their e-mails that I'm a mother. I am. I have three kids. And I am 100% pro-choice. I don't think there's any split on that issue between mothers and non-mothers but my sister was once greeted with shock when she declared (at her job -- my oldest sister, for those keeping track) that she was pro-choice. The sputtering reply was something like, "But-but-but-but you're a mother!" Yes. You can be a mother and you can be pro-choice. I would think you'd have just as much reason to be pro-choice as if you weren't a mother.
So with that in mind and the Roe v. Wade anniversary coming up, I decided that Kris Hamel's "On 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wage, Fight continues for reproductive justice" was the Workers World article I wanted to repost:
Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion as a woman’s right, will be 36 years old on Jan. 22. The 1973 ruling was wrested from a reactionary bench after years of struggle by women and their male supporters, as well as many legal and medical groups. Ever since, women’s right to reproductive freedom has been under vicious attack by right-wing, racist, anti-woman and anti-choice forces.
In the November 2008 election, voters reaffirmed their support for reproductive rights by defeating anti-choice ballot measures in South Dakota, Colorado and California. Across the U.S. they overwhelmingly chose Barack Obama for president. Obama supports the right to abortion and women’s reproductive health care.
Roll back Hyde Amendment, other restrictions!
A letter to Melody Barnes, head of Obama’s Domestic Policy Council, was prepared by the Hyde–30 Years Is Enough! campaign, a project of the National Network of Abortion Funds. Women’s rights and reproductive rights leaders met with Barnes and other members of the Obama transition team in December to begin discussing how to “ensure real reproductive choices for all women.”
The letter states in part: “For more than 30 years, the Hyde Amendment and other funding restrictions have affected the poorest and most vulnerable of low-income Americans, with a disproportionate impact on women of color and immigrant women. The Hyde Amendment denies abortion access to the 7 million women of reproductive age who are currently enrolled in Medicaid. These funding restrictions are the most detrimental of all attacks on safe, legal abortion care, and represent a clear violation of low-income women’s human rights.”
The Barnes letter urges Obama to “strike language in his first budget that blocks women’s access to abortion care, including restrictions on abortion funding for Medicaid-eligible women and Medicare beneficiaries (the Hyde Amendment), federal employees and their dependents (FEHB), residents of the District of Columbia, Peace Corps volunteers, Native American women, and women in federal prisons. Though attached to different funding streams, we consider these restrictions to be a single issue requiring consistent and equal treatment by President Obama.”
The letter to Barnes further states: “By striking funding restrictions, President Obama can place abortion back in the context of health care, thereby setting a new tone and signaling to Congress his commitment to comprehensive women’s health care. [T]his early commitment will bolster the efforts of our diverse and growing grassroots advocacy campaign as we continue educating the public and Members of Congress about the urgent need for a full repeal of these restrictions.”
Only 43 percent of House members in the new Congress are abortion rights supporters. The U.S. Senate now has 40 members who are committed to reproductive rights. (www.naral.org)
Among the signers of the Barnes/Obama letter are dozens of national organizations such as the Center for Reproductive Rights, Catholics for Choice, the National Organization for Women, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, and Black Women for Reproductive Justice. Dozens of local and regional organizations are also signers.
Bush’s parting blow to women
On Dec. 18 the Bush administration’s Department of Health and Human Services issued a new regulation affecting 17 million poor women–a disproportionate number of whom are women of color–who are enrolled in public health care programs. The restrictive regulationsignificantly impairs women’s ability to get such basic reproductive health services as contraception, counseling and information necessary to make decisions about their own health.
A Center for Reproductive Rights press release stated: “The new regulation allows people only tangentially related to the provision of health care and an increased number of medical institutions to refuse a woman care based on religious and moral beliefs. HSS claims this will further protect health care providers against discrimination; but in reality, it leaves women who rely on public programs unprotected and seriously violates their rights and needs as patients. HSS also purposely leaves the door open for health care providers to justify refusing a woman basic forms of contraception such as birth control pills and IUDs.” (www.reproductiverights.org, Dec. 18)
Advocates for reproductive rights are urging incoming-President Obama to immediately rescind the new HSS regulation. The petition “Urge Obama to Take Action” can be signed at www.naral.org.
Just as it took a mass struggle to win Roe v. Wade 36 years ago, access to full reproductive health care for all women will involve grassroots organizing to build a strong, broad-based coalition for women’s reproductive rights. This struggle will continue on a national and state-by-state basis in order to stop ongoing right-wing, anti-choice initiatives and begin establishing reproductive justice for all women.
The writer is a co-founder of DANFORR–the Detroit Action Network For Reproductive Rights, one of the signers of the Barnes/Obama letter. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved. Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
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So there you go. And on abortion, I'm going to repeat what I've had up here before. If you don't personally plan to ever have an abortion (under any circumstances), that still doesn't mean you should be anti-choice. There are people who are pro-choice simply because they don't feel it's the government's business. And it's not. It's a woman's business because it's her body.
Okay, now let me try to muster some chatter.
If traffic moves right, I am home in forty minutes. I don't have any problems getting to work in forty minutes but driving back can be a problem. There are a lot more cars than I'm used to (and Atlanta isn't a tiny, one-horse town). But it seems to move quicker and it seems like everyone knows the pattern. It's like they all drive in formation.
Do I mind the drive?
I probably should. I should probably tell you it's awful and I want to pull my hair out.
Instead, I'll tell you the truth.
I love it!
Because everyone's helping out (dropping my kids off and picking them up), I no longer am rushing to the schools in the morning and then to work or rushing from work in the evening and to daycare. So I've got forty minutes in the morning and forty minutes in the evening of me-time.
I don't care if the guy behind is riding his horn and riding my bumper, it's like being in the tub with bubble bath. I'm sure I'll get used to it and it won't seem so special, but right now it's really amazing.
Dona loaded me up with all of these books on disc and I had my own CDs. She figured it would be dull. No. Not yet. It's been wonderful.
The kids love it as well. I'm sure they think, "Break from Mommy! Yea!" (I would think that myself.) I'd mentioned that I had boxes to unpack still and thank you to Kat, Ava and C.I. who made a point to take care of that for me. That was going to be my big project over the long weekend. Instead, the big plan now is for the kids and I do to some sightseeing.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, January 16, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, the US government pays $350,000 over a veteran's sucicide (Jeff Lucey), assassination attempts pile up in Iraq, Barack makes it clear that he is declaring war on Social Security and more.
Today Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal's Baghdad Life) evaluates the changes in the Green Zone since the January 1st 'handover' to Iraqis:
The first thing I noticed when we reached the first checkpoint was that it was manned by Iraqi soldiers, not Americans. The soldier was friendly and after checking our IDs, waved us on to the next checkpoint, which was also staffed by Iraqi soldiers. But there were a few Americans standing behind them observing the Iraqi soldiers. Still, the Americans did not approach us and left the work to the Iraqis. I also noticed a new "welcome" sign that was in both English and Arabic, and near that was a billboard that listed in Arabic the principles of an Iraqi soldier, including being loyal to Iraq.
Seeing the Iraqi soldiers made me think I would see them elsewhere in the Green Zone. But the other checkpoints I passed through were the same as before, and manned by Peruvians who work for a security contractor. Iraqi soldiers had not replaced them. The U.S.-Iraq security agreement says the Americans can continue to assist Iraqis in security efforts after the Green Zone handover. And it seemed that with the excpetion of the entry/exit areas of the Green Zone, the internal checkpoints were still the same.
Further proof that things remain the same comes as Iraq sees another assassination. Yesterday's snapshot noted: "Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roasdie bombing that wounded two people, a second one that wounded four and a third one that targeted Ahmed Taieb Murad and claimed the life of Murad's bodyguard Reuters identifies the Education Minister targeted in the Baghdad roadside bombing as Abd Thiab al-Ajili." The Education Minister's name is also spelled Abed Theyab in some press coverage. Mohammed Abbas and Matthew Jones (Reuters) report that provincial candidate Haythem al-Hasnowi (of the Dawa Party) was shot dead during an attack on his convoy outside of Baghdad. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that the attack took place in Ajrash and left four members of al-Hasnowi's security staff wounded. Issa also notes that last night in Salahuddin Province, provincial election candidate "Hussein al Shatb survived an assassination attempt by gunmen". This month began with the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Iraq Staffan de Mistura condemning the assassination of provincial candidate Mowaffaq al-Hamdani who was murdered in Mosul on the last day of 2008. Provincial elections are scheduled for January 31st in fourteen of Iraq's eighteen provinces. The United Nations have been warning since November that the lead up to provincial elections would likely lead to an increase in violence. November 10th, UN spokesperson Michele Montas handled the press briefing and noted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had declared that the upcoming provinicial electiions increased the "potential for election-related violence and instability."
In other reported violence today . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul roadside bombing resulted in three Iraqi soldiers being wounded. Reuters notes an Ishaqi roadside bombing claimed 3 lives and left five more people injured, a Kirkuk rocket attack that left one person wounded.
Reuters notes a Mosul home invasion that resulted in 1 woman being killed and two more members of the family being injured.
Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered Thursday in Mosul and 1 discovered in Mussayab while three were discovered in Kirkuk.
Also today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldier died of wounds at approximately 3 p.m. Jan. 16 following an improvised-explosive device attack on his patrol in Baghdad. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kind and official release by the Department of Defense." The announcement brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4227 with 6 for the month thus far.
That count does not include those who return and take their own lives. Iraq War veteran Jeffrey Michael Lucey took his life June 22, 2004 after he was repeatedly failed by the VA system despite the fact that he was suicidal and that his family pleaded with VA staff to treat him. Fred Contrada (The Republican) offers a look at some of Jeffery's time in Iraq and after:
At one point, Lucey came upon the body of an Iraqi boy who had been shot to death in the street. A tiny, blood-stained American flag was clutched in the dead boy's hand. Lucey took the flag and carried it with him for the rest of his life.Lucey began drinking a lot after returning home later that year, his family said. At Christmas time he confessed to his sister that he had been ordered to shoot two captured Iraqi soldiers at point blank range. Lucey, who had kept the men's identification tags, threw them on the bed and shouted, "Your brother is a murderer!" The U.S. Marine Corps said it has found no evidence that Lucey's story is true.Kevin Lucey said records show his son told someone at the VA that he was contemplating suicide, but the Luceys were not informed of this. On June 21, 2004, less than a month after he was released from the VA, Jeffrey Lucey asked his father if he could curl up in his lap. Kevin Lucey cradled his son that night. When he returned home from work the next day, he found Jeffrey hanging from a self-made noose in the basement. Lucey was buried with the flag he had taken from the Iraqi boy. Kevin Lucey said news of the settlement stirred a lot of emotions within the family."It's like losing Jeff all over again," he said.
The settlment? Jonathan Saltzman (Boston Globe) reports the US government insists that they are not to blame but they will be paying the Lucey's $350,000. As a general rule -- ask Asian-Americans interned during WWII -- the US government not only refuses to admit responsibility, they refuse to offer restitutions. Those who no longer believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Clause will find it difficult to believe the kindness of Uncle Sam resulted in the $350,000 payment. The Luceys are members of Military Families Speak Out and that organization has released the following (PDF format warning) statement:US GOVERNMENT AGREES TO PAY $350,000 TO PARENTS OF US MARINE IN SUICIDE CASE CASE WAS THE FIRST TO BE FILED SINCE THE IRAQ WAR BEGANGovernment Admits that Cpl. Jeffrey Lucey's Suicide Was A "Tragedy"for Veterans Administration SPRINGFIELD, MA -- The United States Government has agreed to pay $350,000 to the parents of a United States Marine who committed suicide in 2004 after returning home from combat duty in the Iraq war. Within months after returning home from Iraq in June 2003, Cpl. Jeffrey Lucey began to show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder caused by his experience in the war. On June 22, 2004, Jeffrey hung himself in the basement of his parents' home, two weeks after the Northampton Veterans Medical Center in Leeds, Massachusetts, turned him away. Jeffrey, who had received an honorable discharge from the US Marine Corps, was 23 years old at the time of his death. In July 2007, his parents, Kevin and Joyce Lucey filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the United States in federal court in Springfield, Massachusetts -- the first such suit to be filed since thebeginning of the war in Iraq. On January 6, 2009, the US Justice Department issued a letter to the Luceys' attorney, Cristobal Bonifaz, which admitted "that Jeffrey's suicide while under VA [Veterans Administration] care was a tragedy for the VA and the individual care providers." The letter formally offered $350,000 to settle the case. Bonifaz today notified the federal court that his clients have accepted this offer. "The US Government killed my son," said Kevin Lucey. "It sent him into an illegal and reckless war and then, when he returned home, it denied him the basic health care he needed. We hope that this case serves as a wake-up call to the nation that our government must be held accountable for the suffering it has caused thousands of US military families." Joyce Lucey added "When Jeffrey went to Iraq, we didn't realize that the bullets and bombs there didn't present the only threat to our son's safety. Our own government's apathy and indifference are just as great a threat to our troops and veterans. Until the Veterans Administration takes the psychological wounds of war seriously, the epidemic of military suicides will continue to grow." "Jeffrey Lucey carried to his death the American flag he found in the hands of a dead Iraqi child," said Bonifaz. "Jeffrey never recovered from the horrors he witnessed in Iraq. When his post-traumatic stress disorder signs became critical, he was turned away at the door of the US Veterans Administration. Jeffrey Lucey would have lived but for the illegal war in Iraq and the callous and irresponsible treatment handed to him by the US agency charged with providing him health care when he had returned home." After their son's death in 2004, Kevin and Joyce Lucey joined Military Families Speak Out, a national organization of military families opposed to the war in Iraq. "Jeffrey's story is a story of too many military families in this country," said Joyce Lucey. "We will continue to speak out to demand that our government immediately end this war, bring our troops home now, and provide all the necessary medical care they deserve when they return." "And to those military families who have similarly suffered because of the negligence of the US Veterans Administration," added Kevin Lucey, "we hope this case serves as an example that the government can and must be held accountable in a court of law." Kevin and Joyce Lucey and Cristobal Bonifaz are available for interview.Copies of the letter from the U.S. Justice Department outlining the settlement in this case are available by request from Military Families Speak Out. Military Families Speak Out is an organization of 4,000 military families opposed to the war in Iraq, with loved ones who are serving or have served in the U.S. military since fall, 2002.
Starting tomorrow Act Against War and Courage to Resist are sponsoring actions
Throw-A-Shoe at Bush! To Obama: No war!Join Us. Shoes provided or BYOS! Prizes, Music & Fun!
Sat., Jan. 17, Noon - 3 pm, Justin Herman Plaza (Embarcadero BART), SF
Sun., Jan. 18, Noon - 3 pm, Justin Herman Plaza (Embarcadero BART), SF
Tues., Jan. 20, 7 am - Noon, United Nations Plaza (Civic Center BART), SF. Near the public Obama inauguration simulcast event at Civic Center Plaza
Iraqi Journalist Muntader al-Zaidi threw his shoes at Bush while saying, "This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq." We symbolically join him as Bush leaves office. We also throw shoes for the widows, families, and US service men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. We throw shoes for those who are hurting while billions are wasted for war instead of bailing out those of us lacking food, housing, healthcare, and education.
Here are 5 key changes that will begin to do this.
1) ALL TROOPS HOME FROM IRAQ NOW! Including "non-combat" troops, private contractors (i.e. Blackwater), and close all US military bases in Iraq.
2) HELP REBUILD IRAQ Give reparations for the human and structural damages Iraq has suffered, and stop the corporate pillaging of Iraq so that their people can control their own lives and future.
3) NO ESCALATIONS, NO NEW WARS * No escalation of war in Afghanistan; troops should be withdrawn.* Stop attacks inside Pakistan. Don't attack Iran.* Cut military aid to governments that violate human rights or international law, such as Israel in what Amnesty International calls an "unlawful attack on Gaza."* Close Guantanamo and all secret prisons
4) FROM GLOBAL MILITARY INTERVENTION TO REAL SECURITY AT HOME * Close all 800 foreign US military bases.* Reduce military budget and troops; Stop wasting hundreds of billions needed for healthcare, housing, education, and green energy/jobs.
5) SUPPORT VETERANS * Amnesty for all GI resisters who refuse illegal war.* Full benefits, adequate healthcare (including mental health), and other supports for returning servicemen and women.
(I don't think they're clickable above, so I'm putting the links in -- and Courage to Resist is also on our permalinks to the left). Those actions begin tomorrow.Muntader al-Zaidi is the Iraqi journalist who threw both of his shoes, one after the other, at the Bully Boy of the United States while declaring, "This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss, you dog" and "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq." And that was December 14. Over a month later and what's happened?Timothy Williams (New York Times) reports that Muntader's family and attorneys aren't allowed to see him (the December 21st visit -- hailed in the press at the time as the first visit -- remains the only visit), do not know where he is held and do not know if or when Muntader will see justice but his family fears never and fears for his life. Attorney Dhiyaa al-Saadi explains that there is documentation of the torture Muntader has experienced while imprisoned ("two medical reports conducted by government physicians within a week of Mr. Zaidi's arrest described brusing that coverd the reporter's face and body, but was especially sever on his legs and arms; a missing tooth; a gash on the bridge of his nose; and what appeared to be a burn mark on his ear").al-Maliki's legal adviser Fadhil Mohammed Jawad tells Williams (apparently for the laugh factor) that, "Judicially, Iraq is just and the law will handle this case with justice." Yeah, that is funny. (For a recent look at Iraqi 'justice,' see this article by Ned Parker.) The family is refused visitation and even the New York Times can't figure out where Muntader is being held despite High Judicial Council spokesperson Adbudl Satta al-Biriqday telling the paper that Muntader was at a specific prison "in the Green Zone, operated by the Baghdad Brigade, a military unit that answeres to the prime minister's office." Attempts to visit as al-Biriqday said was possible?But during a recent visit to the complex, an Iraqi Army guard told a reporter who requested a visit to leave immediately. The guard also said it was "dangerous" to seek to meet Mr. Zaidi.The soldier who did not identify himself, said he did not know whether Mr. Zaidi was being held there.On Thursday, an e-mail message sent to Mr. Maliki requesting a visit with Mr. Zaidi received no reply.Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports that his brother, Mitham al-Zaidi, was finally allowed a two-hour visit today and that Muntader wants people "to pray at two mosques in Baghdad for the release and welfare of all prisoners in US detention." His brother quotes Muntader stating, "What I did was because of my refusal and rejection of the occupation and the American policy in Iraq."
Turning to US politics, President-elect Barack Obama met with the Washington Post editorial board yesterday. Here for Michael D Shear's text article, here for the sixty-one minute audio. Warning for those listening to the audio, Barack's speaking abilities have not magically improved. Sample: "Uh, obivoulsy military service is uh something we uh honor as a country [. . .] That's going to be something that we uh uh . . ." And four minutes, for those wondering, he takes his first swipe at African-American fathers. Yes, it's Barack singing all his well known tunes. And mixing in a few new ones such as, "It's not something I've said publicly . . . but spending money wisely is not easy." Mostly, the interivew will be remembered as the one where Barack declared War on Social Security. Barack's replied to questions and made vague statements. But, his Love Cult insists, that's just the Nice Guy Barry trying to make nice and get along. He doesn't want to say, "Stupid crooks, Social Security is not going to be chipped away!" Well, actually he does want to say that and he did say that.
We're dropping back to Sunday's This Week with George Stephanopoulos (ABC -- video and text):
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me press you on this, at the end of the day, are you really talking about over the course of your presidency some kind of a grand bargain? That you have tax reform, health care reform, entitlement reform, including Social Security and Medicare where everybody in the country is going to have to sacrifice something, accept change for the greater good?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And when will that get done?
OBAMA: Well, the -- right now I'm focused on a pretty heavy lift, which is making sure that we get that reinvestment and recovery package in place. But what you describe is exactly what we're going to have to do.
What we have to do is to take a look at our structural deficit, how are we paying for government, what are we getting for it, and how do we make the system more efficient?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And eventually sacrifice from everyone.
OBAMA: Everybody is going to have to give. Everybody is going to have to have some skin in the game.
Barack was asked about it above. With the Washington Post, he brought it up on his own -- and referenced George Steph's "grand bargain" -- so hopefully even his Love Cult can start to see a few realities. He begins talking about his big "Fiscal Responsibility Summit" that will be held in February and include a motley crew that will "talk about waste." He then seques into Social Security during this response (at approximately 16:14) and states the following:
We're also going to have a discussion about entitlements and how we get a grasp on those. Uh and uh, you know, like i think everybody here is familiar enough with the budget problems to know that as bad as these deficits that we're running up over the next -- that have already been run up -- have been and despite the cost of both TARP and the stimulus, the real problem in our long term deficit actually has to do with our entitlement obligation and the fact that historically uh if our revenues ranged between 18 and 20% of GDP they're now at 16. It's just not sustainable so we're going to have to uh craft a uh what George Stephanopoulos called a grand bargain and I-I try not to use the word grand in anything that I say but uh but we're going to have to shape a baragain. This, by the way, is where there are going to be some very difficult choices and issues of sacrifices and responsibilty and duty are going to come in because what we have done is kick this can down the road. We're now at the end of the road and uh we are not in a position to kick it any further.
Those are right-wing talking points and only the most historically ignorant of Barack's Love Cult will fail to grasp the declaration of war.
For some reality, here's 2008's Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science winner Paul Krugman addressing the realities about Social Security on Democracy Now! in December of 2004 (link has text, video and audio):
Social Security is a program which ahs been traditionally run. It looks like a retirement fund, and it is not exactly. What it really is is a government program with a dedicated tax. We take the payroll tax and it's used to pay benefits to retirees. And 20-plus years ago, the commission led by Alan Greenspan said, you know, we are going to have this problem as the baby boomers reach retirement age. We will have a higher ratio of retirees to workers, and we better get ready for it. Social Security, the payroll tax was increased. There were some other things, a small rise in the retirement age set in motion. So that Social Security would run a surplus, which would be used to accumulate a trust fund, and this would tithe us over, some ways into the aging of the population. And that on its own accounting is working just fine. I mean, one of the things that we need to know is that the estimates of the day at which the trust fund runs out, just keep on receding further into the future, because the program is doing so well at running surpluses. So, ten years ago, -people said it was going to run out in 2029. Now the official estimate is 2042. Realistically, it's probably going to go well into the second half of the century. Now how does this become a crisis? Well it becomes a crisis by changing the rules. By saying, oh, well, actually that surplus that we're running because of the tax increase that was designed to prolong the life of Social Security, that's not real. Because it's invested in government bonds which are perfectly good asset, for anybody else, but not for the Social Security administration.
Barack's remarks to the Post's editorial board go beyond troubling. There's no need to decipher them. He brought it up on his own (he also refused to answer questions on the topic -- though he was happy to later say Sponge Bob was his favorite TV cartoon). His words, transcribed with all the "uh"s he is so famous for. It's very clear what he's pushing. And that's why it's on the audio recording that few will listen to and not in the write-up that made the paper (the bits of half-sentences in the write-up are from his dancing around the direct questions on the topic, not from when he spoke at length about it without any prompting).
We're going to stay with the Post interview for a bit more because it's Barack speaking. When his attack on Social Security began this month (he's attacked it many times before) there was a lot of garbage about how he was being distorted and those weren't his words and "My lover would never say that about me!" It's him speaking on the audio recording. His words, his voice. So let's turn to Guantanamo. Michael Ratner and Jules Lobel wrote a piece for The Nation last month on Guantamo and how it needed to be closed but that wasn't the end of it:
But what of others whom the Bush administration asserts cannot be released? And what will be the fate of any new detainees under the Obama administration? These questions should be answered as they have been for 200 years in this country: if there is sufficient evidence, charge them with crimes and have trials in federal courts; if not, release them. Not much will have been accomplished if Guantanamo is shuttered while the practices that underlie it continue. Yet this is being suggested by some who may have Obama's ear. They argue that holding some terror suspects without trial or charges is necessary. A National Security Court composed of specially appointed judges without juries, using watered-down, minimal due process, would make the decisions.
The Feel-Good Headlines are Barack will close Guantanamo. The issue of the innocent -- you are innocent in the American judicial system until you have been found guilty in a court of law -- was briefly addressed by Barack in his interview with the paper's editorial board yesterday. He rushed to insist, "I will close Guantanamo and that's the bottom line." No, it's not as he immediately made clear, "The trick is what do we do with dangerous individuals who are detained whose evidence is fouled up . . . ? And there are no quick, easy solutions to that." Yes, there are. You're guilty or you're innocent and that's determined by a jury in a criminal case. If the evidence is not there to warrant a conviction, then you're not guilty. That's how it works in the United States. Do the guilty sometimes escape punishment as a result? Absolutely. But the alternative is a people controlled by the state. That's what guilty until proven innocent is. In a criminal case, the prosecution is the government. A government that does not have to first prove guilt can use prosecution as a way to do away with dissidents and political opponents. Trumped up charges can have someone imprisoned for years or even put to death. The people rule in the United States and American justice is built around that principle. Everyone accused of any crime is innocent in a court of law unless and until they are proven guilty. Ava and I long ago noted that Barack didn't grasp the Constitution (wrongly inferring that Loving v. Virginia involved a lawsuit against a church). Nothing he said to the editorial board yesterday indicated a strong grasp of the US Constitution. He spoke of the possibility of creating a new body. And maybe that new body was just to continue to imprison the current inmates or maybe it was for his planned imprisonments.
While we're noting Michael Ratner (president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, co-host of Law & Disorder with Dalia Hashad, Heidi Boghosian and Michael Smith) we'll note Ratner As Media Critic (I'm laughing because it's not a role often associated with him but the excerpt will indicate it's one he should tackle more often):
The December's Harper's Cover promises a lot: Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are behind bars. Prominently displayed under the prisoners is the title of Scott Horton's article "Justice After Bush, Prosecuting an Outlaw Administration." I was excited. I thought I was about to read the case for prosecuting high level administration officials for the torture program.
Alas, it was not to be. Prosecutions are given only lip service while the bulk of the article argues for a truth commission/commission of inquiry. A commission will not do what is necessary to end torture now and in the future: make it clear, just as we do in cases with the most minor offenses, that actions have consequences. A failure to initiate a criminal investigation of the torture program will only encourage future law breaking by sending a message of impunity. The message that we need to send is that the torture conspirators will be held accountable. That is the only way to fulfill Obama's promise: "I have said repeatedly that America doesn't torture. And I'm going to make sure that we don't torture."
What is surprising in Horton's article is the disconnect between the first half which is one of the strongest pieces I have read about the lawlessness of the Bush adminstration and the latter half where he sets up a complex and unworkable commission. The articles opening paragraphs scream out the necessity for prosecutions. Horton states that no other administration has been "so systematically or brazenly lawless;" that torture is the crime that "calls most clearly calls for prosecution;" and that it is the "most likely to be successfully prosecuted." In one of his most important observations Horton states that the administration "waged war against the law itself," and that the ruler claimed that it "was the law." This recognition is critical. It means that no matter how many executive orders and new prohibitions on torture are enacted, a future administration can reassert Bush's claim that the President is above the law. The prohibitions will be for naught as will the conclusions of a commission. This is a key reason why the deterrence that results from prosecutions is necessary. Never again should we have an executive who claims to be above the law."
Public broadcasting notes. Starting with public radio, WBAI on Sunday and Monday:
Sunday, January 18, 11am-noonTHE NEXT HOURPoet Hugh Seidman hosts this hour with fellow poets Harvey Shapiro,Lawrence Joseph and D. Nurkse.Monday, January 19, 2-3pmCAT RADIO CAFEContinuing WBAI's all-day annual Martin Luther King Day celebrationand fundraiser. Hosted by Janet Coleman and David Dozer.Broadcasting at WBAI/NY 99.5 FMStreaming live at WBAIArchived at Cat Radio CafeNOW on PBS examines "the green energy dream" in the latest installment which begins broadcasting on many PBS stations tonight (check local listings for date and time in your area): "Will the green energy dream come to fruition? This week NOW explores obstacles to the promise of renewables--energy generated from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, and rain."
Also on PBS (and it begins airing tonight in most markets) is Washington Week which finds Gwen gas bagging with the National Journal's Jim Barnes, Washington Post's Shailagh Murray, New York Times' David Sanger and Slate's John Dickerson. Watch Gwen pretend to listen while fuming that she wasn't picked to be the host of Meet The Press. Study Gwen's face while her interior monologue screams, "Yeah, I've now dropped to one woman guest a week, pretty soon I'll drop to zero. No one ever calls me out. Mainly because no one notices me. How do I have four guests each week and repeatedly book only one woman! No one is noticing! Why doesn't anyone love me? Why!!!!!" Bill Moyers Journal also airs on PBS (tonight in most markets) and the latest includes Bill responding to the Gaza slaughter and you can review the discussion Moyers had with the Anti-Defamation League's Abe Foxman. At the show's blog, Micahel Winship offers an essay proclaiming it's "Time to Move On." Some are less sure about forgiving and forgetting, Michael:
As Barack Obama prepares to be sworn in, I recall an old National Lampoon record album -- record albums, remember those? -- from the final weeks of the Watergate scandal that comically suggested that President Richard Nixon be given a "swearing OUT" ceremony. There followed a series of blistering curses and calumnies directed at the soon-to-be departed and disgraced chief executive, delivered by someone impersonating the Reverend Billy Graham. You have to wonder if amidst all the fanfare and hoopla Barack Obama isn't quietly swearing a bit beneath his breath as he beholds what his about-to-be-predecessor has left for him. Hercules mucking out the Stygian stables is as nothing to the heaps of bungle and botch confronting the next commander-in-chief.
As Winship continues his essay, many will be reminded of the joke by those who do not believe in reincarnation: Why do people who say they've had past lives always claim to have been someone famous? As Winship piles it on thick about Barack and tosses out this president and that president, you quickly note there's no John Tyler, no William Henry Harrison, no Chester Arthur, in fact as Winship raises and raises the stakes, you start to worry he'll get a nasty hope-cut on his typing finger.
And on broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday, no 60 Minutes:60 Minutes is pre-empted Sunday, Jan. 18, by CBS Sports coverage of the American Football Conference Championship game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. 60 Minutes Update
Osama bin LadenAn audiotape of Osama bin Laden, his first since May 2008, appeared on an Islamic militant Web site Wednesday. Last October, the officer who led the Army's Delta Force mission to kill bin Laden revealed to Scott Pelley what happened in the weeks following 9/11 in Tora Bora, Afghanistan. Video
the wall street journal
the boston globejonathan saltzmanfred contradamilitary families speak out
law and disorder
the new york timestimothy williamscourage to resistact against war
60 minutescbs newswashington weeknow on pbspbsbill moyers journal