Tuesday, December 27, 2005

News roundup (Tuesday morning bonus to The Third Estate Sunday Review)

What follows is a bonus to The Third Estate Sunday Review. We publish on Sundays but due to the holidays, we're providing the news roundup below. Ty, Jim, Jess and C.I. participated along with Rebecca, Wally, Cedric, Mike, Betty, Kat and Elaine. You'll see this at various community websites.
-- Jim, Ty and Jess

"News roundup including did Bully Boy break the law?"
Did Bully Boy break the law by authorizing spying on American citizens and circumventing the FISA courts? If so, how many years can someone be sentenced to for that crime? We'll highlight a radio discussion on that issue, but first, news on Iraq, Morocco, Afghanistan, the Phillipines, Russia, Chile, Israel, activism and more.

As reported on The Daily Iraq Wire, December 25th wasn't a day of peace in Iraq. Two bombs went off in Iraq injuring seven Iraqis. In addition, a reported al Qaeda group in Iraq announced Sunday that they had kidnapped and killed four Arabs who had been "working with the US authorities and the Iraqi government in the fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad."
Monday violence and unrest continued. Deepa Babington, reporting for the Irish Examiner, notes that Baghdad saw five explosions today killing eight and wounding thirty-eight. Outside of Baghdad, there were attacks in Falluja where a suicide bomber killed himself and two police recruits. In Dhabab, five Iraqi soldiers were killed.

Reporting for IPS, Gareth Porter reports today a "looming confrontation" between Shi'ites in Iraq and the American officials who are urging the disbanding of Shi'ite paramilitary groups. American officials fear groups may have close ties to Iran. The "looming confrontation" emerged when American officials decided to make an issue of the "torture houses" run by Shi'ites. "Decided?" Major R. John Stukey and others first reported the existance of "torture houses" in June of 2005. From June to November, US officials remained silent.

As of Monday, US military fatalities in Iraq stand at 2169, official count with 56 of those fatalities for the month of December. Iraq Body Count, which gathers totals by following media reports, estimates that as few as 27,592 and as many as 31,115 Iraqis have died thus far since the invasion.

In other war news, Agence France-Presse reports the American military is claiming that "very soon" the number of troops serving in Iraq will drop from 19,000 to 2, 5000.
In activism news, NOW is calling for action on Samuel Alito, Jr.'s Supreme Court nomination:

There is work to be done, both in Washington, DC and throughout the country. As
a part of Freedom Winter 2006, NOW and Feminist Majority Foundation are working together to bring grassroots activists to DC between January 3 and January 20. We're also encouraging activists to organize in their communities.

More information can be found online at NOW as well as online at the Feminist Majority Foundation. In related news, Ms. Magazine has compiled "the top ten news stories for women in 2005." Topping the list, Sandra Day O'Connor's announcement that she will step down from the Supreme Court bench. Planned Parenthood has also compiled a look back at the year 2005. Their look back begins with a listing of the five best and five worst places to get birth control prescriptions filled:

Brooks/Eckerd Corporation

Rite Aid

In international news, Al Jazeera reports that Augusto Pinochet will finally stand trial for the deaths and disappearances carried out under his dictator regime as the head of Chile. Chile's Supreme Court, in a three to two vote, ruled that Pinochet is fit to stand trial. The BBC reports that charges will be filed Tuesday against four US marines for rape. The four are currently at the US embassy in Manila and "it is unclear whether it will hand over the marines." Abdul Rahman Khuzairan reports, for Islam.Online. net, that on Sunday a sit-in was staged in Casablanca by Morocco's Equity and Reconciliation Forum "to protest the mass grave found recently with the remains of 82 people." Canada's Star Phoenix reports that Monday in St. Petersburg, shoppers in one store were exposed to a mysterious gas: "Boxes containing timers wired to glass vials were discovered at the scene of the attack and three other stores in the same chain in Russia's second-largest city." And in Tut-tut Tuttle news, the Finanical Times reports that car dealer and contributor of $70,000 worth of donations to the GOP in 2004, Robert Tuttle continues to stumble in his post as US ambassador to England. For the second time, Tuttle has been forced to issue a correction to the BBC following an interview. Embassy work, not as easy as moving cars off a lot.

"Have we made poverty history?" asks The Independent of London? The debt relief in 2008 will go not to Africa but to Iraq and Nigeria. In addition the United States is backing off from it's earlier committments. Also reporting for The Independent, Maxine Frith notes that charities and aid workers believe that Live 8, and those involved in the concerts, "hijacked" the effort and gave the world a false sense of resolution when the problems of world poverty contine. Meera Selva reports from Africa that the people supposed to benefit from the concerts in London's Hyde Park have seen little difference in their lives. One woman tells Selva, "We have problems in Africa, big problems. What can plastic bracelets and pop concerts do to solve them?"

Reuters reports Israeli helicopters firing three missiles into Gaza. This comes as Al Jazeera reports that the Israeli government has announced intentions to build an additional 200 homes on the West Bank. The BBC reports, in other news from the region, that Ariel Sharon has been urged to "curb his appetite" by doctors as he awaits sugery "to close a small hole which doctors found in his heart after he had a minor stroke."

For The KPFA Evening News, Anthony Fest spoke Monday evening to Christopher Pyle, "a consultant to Congress in the drafting of the surveillance act, today he teaches political science at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusettes." (What follows is a rough transcript, use the link to listen to the archived broadcast.)

Pyle: The Church Committee was set up because during the Watergate era we had discovered extensive domestic surveillance operations by a number of agencies including the FBI, military intelligence, the CIA and, the largest intelligence agency of all, the National Security Agency. It does electronic intercepts worldwide. It has stations around the world. It picks up communications off of statellites. It picks them off of landlines and it searches them with a dictionary of watch words. And during the 1970s, we discovered that the National Security Agency had maintained files on about 75,000 Americans and they particularly targeted political activists like Dr. Martin Luther King, the folk singer Joan Baez, and the anti-war protestor Dr. Benjamin Spock. We sought to end that massive surveillance, which had no judicial authority what so ever, by passing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. That law said that if the government, when the government wanted to monitor electronic communications it had to go to a special court to gain a national security authorization, a speciall warrant. And for a number of years, it appears that the government did go to the special court and was able to conduct its monitoring with special warrants. But three years ago, the Bush administration decided that this was inconveinent for some reason that's not fully understood. And they just ignored the court and began collecting, uh, information rather broadly. The law itself says that it's the exclusive method by which monitoring may take place and that anybody who violates the law is guilty of a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Fast: So there's no leeway for interpretation here, it's uh, it's black and white that if you don't go through the FISA court, you are in violation of the law?
Pyle: Exactly. So what we have here is the rather extraordinary situation of a president who has admitted to committing a felony. Now he says that Congress excused him by passing the resolution against al Qaeda but that says nothing about electronic surveillance. And then he says that the Constitution excuses him because the Constitution places him above the law. There's actually a secret memo produced by the Justice Department to justify torture that says that a war time president can ignore the criminal law of the United States. There's no basis for this in law, there's no basis for this in the history of Constitutional law and Constitutional interpretation and that's of course why the memo was kept secret because if it had ever seen the light of day it would have been laughed out of court. Well now it's seen the light of day and assertions based on that theory have seen the light of day and we're not laughing because we realize the government is really out of control.
Fast: Doubtless the techonology of surveillance is incrompably more powerful today than it was in the 1960s. Is there any indication yet exactly how wide, how wide a net the NSA was casting or how many people had been surveilled?
Pyle: No. The initial reports by the New York Times were that up to 500 people at a time had been targeted but perhaps thousands had been intercepted. And if they were, let's say, monitoring all e-mails and searching all e-mails in the United States for certain code words or phrases then it would be probably hundreds of thousands or millions of people who would have been monitored, not simply 500 people targeted at any given time. But we really don't know. But what we know is that the judges on the FISA court are extremely upset. One of them has already resigned because of this. The others want to know particularly whether this warrant-less spying was being used to then produce probable cause for specific warranted spying. In other words, infecting the very process with illegaly obtained information.
Fast: Since the administration was apparently conducting surveillance that was more in the nature of data mining then watching individuals is there any legal grounds under which they could conduct that kind of operation?
Pyle: No, that is what was known in the common law as a general search. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution forbids general searches. The second clause of the Fourth Amendment says that the warrants must be obtained that specify the place to be searched and and the things to be seized. The FISA warrants specify the persons who are the targets of the intercepts. There has to be specifity. There can't be a great dragnet collecting everything and then sorting it by computer and putting everybody under suspicion.

Did Bully Boy break the law? Better question, after trotting out Vicky Toe-Jam in print and on TV to put forward false claims about the Congessional act passed in the 80s to prevent the outing of CIA agents, why has the mainstream media been so reluctant to pursue people who helped with the drafting of the FISA act?

The above is news you may have missed and was compiled by Wally, Rebecca, Mike, Kat, Jim, Jess, Ty, Cedric, Elaine, Betty, and C.I.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A note to our readers

Sunday. Christmas Day. But readers visiting have a new edition.

You have blog spotlights and music spotlights and a history spotlight.

Thanks to Francisco and C.I. for allowing us to post Francisco's rundown of the headlines of the week.

You also have original content.

Let's get the thing the e-mails demonstrate is always on first on readers' minds, Ava and C.I.'s TV commentaries. Last week, they looked at the year in TV entertainment, this week they examine the year in TV news (or "news"). We think you'll enjoy it. (C.I. says if Jess' totals of the e-mails for last week's feature are correct, readers were "very, very kind and must have been effected by the season to enjoy it.")

Ava and C.I. spent Friday night writing that. We know Ava was especially looking forward to a weekend with no obligations and time to focus on family so we appreciate the dedication and time she and C.I. put into it.

The other new content?

Well first, let's note that it was all written by the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jess and Jim,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz,
and Ruth of Ruth's Morning Edition Report

Ruth had volunteered to participate in a roundtable to help out since we have fewer participants than usual. After that we told her of the review we'd written of the DVD Wal*Mart: the high cost of low price and she added input and suggestions when we read it to her (which we were happy to include). She was then on board for the full edition and we were certainly glad to have her.

We were also glad to have Dallas hunting down links. Thank you, Dallas.

Along with the roundtable and the DVD review, you'll find one of our "cruelly delicious parodies" (as reader John has termed them) and an editorial.

Next week is New Year's Eve. Will you find a new edition? Magic 8 Ball says "Absolutely."

-- Jim, Jess and C.I.

Editorial: Bully Boy Spying and Lying But The Press Wants To play "Some Say"

George Bush and the other purveyors of pain can take a day off from spying on Americans without due process to celebrate the holidays with their families. Dick "the Grinch" Cheney made a "surprise" visit to Iraq the other day. His black heart feels no pain for the tragic loss of life that his greed has caused. How dare he show his face in a country which is destroyed by his insatiable quest for black gold and his obscene lust for profits for his company Halliburton and the other war profiteers?
The pain that these people have caused the world is inestimable. The people of the world want an accounting of the pain and for the people who seem to be getting off Scott free to be brought to some kind of justice for the damage they have wrought on humanity.

The above is from Cindy Sheehan's "Language of the Heart" (BuzzFlash). As 2005 draws to a close, it seems appropriate to note the voice that touched off the summer of portest that woke up the country. The invasion/occupation continues. Both in Iraq and in the oval office.

But we can now talk about bringing the troops home now (even as the mainstream media snickers at the idea -- how many publishers of newspapers have sons and daughters or grandsons and daughters serving in Iraq?). We're also hearing "impeachment" pop up quite a bit.

Most of all, we're hearing about the government spying on citizens.

Apparently, it's okay to spy on activists, for the Pentagon to. Which is why news of that (or news of the NYCPD spying on activists) is a one day story.

The mainstream press has demonstrated a little more interest in the issue of the NSA spying on citizens.

If Bully Boy's last name was "Clinton," he'd be simmering in hot water about to boil. Instead, reporters who do cover the story seem to struggle real hard to find the silver lining of "balance" that can raise the reasonable doubt that the actions of the NSA (ordered by the Bully Boy) were not a crime. (In fact they were a high crime.)

The commander-in-chief caveat gets walked around the block a lot. It's so hard for some to grasp that the Constitution does not make a president the commander-in-chief of the general population. Commander-in-chief of the military, yes. Not commander-in-chief of non-military Americans. Unless the mainstream press is attempting to argue that we've traded a democracy for a military junta, it's a point they should have absorbed some time ago.

They also seem to really struggle trying to attempt to figure out why FISA was created in the first place. FISA is the secret court that can issue warrents for wiretaps, the court that Bully Boy elected not to utilize when he attempted a power grab that spat on the very notion of checks and balances.

We frequently feel as though we run a remidial school for the mainstream press here so let's once again open our books (or web pages) and let's note Democracy Now!'s "An Impeachable Offense? Bush Admits Authorizing NSA to Eavesdrop on Americans Without Court Approval:"

JAMES BAMFORD: Well, before I get into that, just one other comment on what we just have been talking about. When the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was created in 1978, one of the things that the Attorney General at the time, Griffin Bell, said -- he testified before the intelligence committee, and he said that the current bill recognizes no inherent power of the President to conduct electronic surveillance. He said, 'This bill specifically states that the procedures in the bill are the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance may be conducted.' In other words, what the President is saying is that he has these inherent powers to conduct electronic surveillance, but the whole reason for creating this act, according to the Attorney General at the time, was to prevent the President from using any inherent powers and to use exclusively this act.

Now that was a long quote for those with short attention spans. And surely "reporters" who've spent the last few years being spoonfed probably haven't developed the skills to analyze. So let's walk you through that slowly. Griffin Bell was the Attorney General of the United States of America. Under President Jimmy Carter. At the time that the FISA courts were being created. When Congress was considering the bill that would create the FISA courts, ATTORNEY GENERAL Bell testified that the bill did not create a new power for a president.
So one of Bully Boy's many talking points can be rejected now.

Another fun talking point is to argue that apparent minimal briefings to a small number of members serving in the Congress implies Congressional consent. That talking point is laughable on its face. Congressional consent is not something that's granted lightly nor something that should take place away from the public eye.

Furthermore, note this:

Daschle: Bush Administration Was Denied Spy Authority In Washington, former Senate Minority leader Tom Daschle has disclosed previously unknown details that challenge the Bush administration's claim it has legal authority to eavesdrop on Americans and foreign nationals in the US. The White House says the authority was implicitly granted in the joint Congressional resolution authorizing the use of force passed shortly after 9/11. But in today's Washington Post, Daschle claims the Bush administration requested, but was denied, the authority it now claims it was granted.
Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle: "Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words 'in the United States and' after 'appropriate force' in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused."

Consent was not granted by Congress. Daschle states that the administration attempted to carve out those powers but was rebuffed.

Some argue that the Bully Boy doesn't have to answer to Congress at all. One talking point is that he notified them (some, in a minimal manner) and that's all he needed to do. Again, is this a democracy or a military junta?

If it's a democracy, we have rules both for the governed and for those doing the governing.

Now they haven't been applied for the bulk of Bully Boy's tenure but we're talking about a very serious issue. To cover it, the mainstream press may need to leave their "Bully Boy says" versus "some critics argue" stance. Just as if they witnessed a shooting, they'd be unlikely to report, "the accused states that he did not shoot the person but some witnesses argue that he did. We'll leave you with both arguments and won't venture to state the obvious facts."

2005 has been a wild ride. The fatigue and depression following election 2004 lifted slowly, but it did lift. Americans are taking issues quite a bit more seriously than the mainstream press. Maybe it's a desire to start those vacations that won't end until after New Year's Eve? Maybe it's just a tendency to want to have fun, fun, fun during this seasonal time?

But the fact is Americans were spied on by their government. First, Bully Boy says only if one end of the call was international. Now it turns out that Bully Boy's claim was yet another lie. The spying took place without utilizing the court in place to grant permission -- the court created for that very reason. This is a power grab that would leave Richard Nixon gasping in awe at the sheer audacity of the move. So perhaps it's finally time for the mainstream press to attempt reporting and not mere stenography?

As Kat noted at the end of a recent music commentary, "Truth to power in 2006."

[This editorial was written by The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jess and Jim, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, and Ruth of Ruth's Morning Edition Report.]

Roundtable on 2005

Jim: We're here. It's Christmas and we've got new content. We felt we'd do an informal roundtable. We are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jess and me, Jim,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, and Ruth of Ruth's Morning Edition Report. Our topic is a loose, grab all, the year 2005. Ruth, since it's rare that we're able to have you participating, how about we start with you? What stood out to you in 2005?

Ruth: Hmm. Okay, let me note some positives. The anti-war movement came alive. Awareness has been raised on independent media in a way that may not have been true at this period during Bully Boy's first term. I think we're smarter and more aware. That's a great thing because it makes it that much harder to fool us.

Jess: I would agree with you on the issue of the peace movement. On all of it, in fact, but especially the peace movement. I think there's an energy and, like you pointed out, an awareness that wasn't there after the election. I remember you wrote something, and no link from Dallas, we're glad to have his help but we don't want to overtax him, you wrote something Ruth, and you made a similar point here, about the realities of the sixties and seventies.

Ruth: You're speaking of the peace movement?

Jess: Yes, ma'am.

Ruth: Well, there's a tendency to look back on it and think we, people of my generation, participated in one rally or one series of rallies and the war ended. That's not reality. It was a very long struggle. It began before I was even aware of it and I started protesting and signing petitions probably around 1967.

Mike: The summer of love.

Ruth: Yes, and surprised that you know that. But the peace movement had already made significant strides prior to that. And it would continue to do so throughout the sixties and well into the seventies. What the point I was trying to make was is that it didn't happen over night, the movement. It picked up steam and it gathered participants constantly but it wasn't as though one day a large portion of Americans woke up and suddenly decided they were opposed to our actions in Vietnam.

Elaine: Which is an important point. Clarify that to be sure everyone gets it.

Ruth: What we saw in the last half of the year, beginning in the "summer of protest," was the movement against the war making huge strides in terms of awareness. That's the immediate goal. Or one of them, should be one of them. And people of my generation and older, [laughing] there are a few older than I am, need to make sure that point is made because there seems to be a judgment made by some in the press that the movement isn't large enough or isn't this or isn't that. The mainstream media made a point to dismiss the activists back then as well. We benefitted from a number of things including the size of my generation but also things such as competative media. Every station wasn't a part of three or four large companies. So you'd have a station that couldn't pull an audience, a radio station for instance, that would realize that providing an alternative view on the war could attract the listeners that weren't listening to them currently as they attempted to ape the other radio stations. In terms of the landscape today, I think there have been amazing strides made. And I think, to give a hopeful but needed point, that's important to grasp.

Elaine: I would agree with that. It's easy to be discouraged these days, with all the news from the last two weeks alone, it's easy to be discouraged. So we do need to note that there have been accomplishments.

Jim: Which would include the fact that the issue of withdrawal is no longer something that can be ignored. It can be, and is, mocked by the mainstream. But they're no longer in the position they were in a few months back where they wouldn't even address the possibility. Cedric, what stood out to you in 2005?

Cedric: Well touching on an issue that hasn't been touched on, I'd say race. I'd note the silence that greeted John H. Johnson, founder and publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines, when he passed and compare it to the nonstop coverage of Peter Jennings who passed away at the same time. And, of course, with the impact of Hurricane Katrina, we saw race, at least briefly, become an issue that even the mainstream media couldn't ignore. There seems to be less interest in race right now but for a little bit in 2005, there was an interest.

Mike: Where do you think that goes now?

Cedric: Honestly, I think it fades. I hope I'm wrong, but when people saw the different impacts in New Orleans, that were based on income and happened to impact many people of color more than it did Whites, it was an issue.

Mike: A point Juan Gonzalez made on Democracy Now! this week was how the transit strike resulted in some very racist portrayals in the media of workers.

C.I.: Okay, we've got a quote on that, there may be others. This is from Thursday's Democracy Now!:

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, we just have 30 seconds, but on the issue of the viciousness of this, how unusual is it?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I think that it’s -- this always happens when there are major labor strikes, that the press unites with the city officials or corporate figures to do everything possible to portray workers in the worst possible light. Unfortunately, the problem is that the labor movement today is so weak in many respects that it’s not mounting as effective a counterattack as it can. But I think that this is par for the course. It’s especially difficult this time, because the workers are 70% minority, and there is an under-the-surface reality of racial tension, and it’s the New Orleans factor all over again here in the transit workers strike of 2005.

Jim: And you did see that, just a really ugly effort to demonize in the NYC press. The New York Post to be sure but there were others who took part as well. Elaine, what was your take on it?

Elaine: That it was an important story and that I wish it had come at another time because I don't feel that it got, from me anyway, that it got the attention it needed. I think we'll see more actions, similar ones, in 2006. This is an issue that's no going away.

Jim: C.I., you were enraged by an editorial in the New York Times.

C.I.: Rebecca wrote of that. We'd had a phone conversation. She wondered why I took a pass on the Times' coverage of the strike that first day. It was due to the editorial which was shameful. I wonder how many readers were aware of the Times' own problems with their pension because there was certainly no disclosure of that in the editorial. My response to that was that they weren't getting any links to their coverage of the strike. The paper had spoken, the editorials do speak for the paper, not the op-eds, not the special editorials that are signed, the editorials themselves represent the view of the paper. They made their view very clear.

Jess: Were you surprised by it?

C.I.: I wasn't surprised that they were opposed to the strike. That's in keeping with their pro-business legacy and present. But the lack of disclosure regarding their own pension problems and the language of the editorial . . . Hold on, I've pulled my copy of that paper. "The New Yorkers who took to the streets yesterday . . . deserved better"; "There was no impasse" which of course was flat out not true and disproven in the Times own reporting; on the hike for new hires in the amount they'd have to contribute to the pensions the Times, "An Unnecessary Transit Strike" whcih ran on Monday, December 21st, "That's a deal many riders . . . would gladly take." Okay, well how did the Times' employees "take" the news of their own pension problems? Back to the editorial, Roger Toussaint was the person who "should not have the ability to hold the city hostage." It was just the biggest piece of nonsense. An editorial totally contradicted by reporting, including the paper's own reporting, that saw the person reacting as the person solely responsible. I found it disgusting, not surprising, but disgusting. I agree with Elaine, this will be an issue in 2006 as others begin to take a serious look at their own work situations.

Jim: And what stands out to you about 2006?

C.I.: Well the war goes on. Bully Boy hasn't been impeached. The press appears to have woken up for New Orleans and now for the issue of the NSA spying, but note that they're not overly concerned, judging by the lack of follow up coverage, to the Pentagon spying on American citizens. But we're still dealing with the press that could avoid Michael Smith's reports on the Downing Street Memos. A press that could ignore the memos period.

Cedric: That's just amazing to me still. That they would close ranks and declare a government document that spoke of fixing intelligence as not a news story worth covering. It makes you wonder what it takes for them to cover something? What exactly makes the cut as news other than another missing White woman?

Jess: Truly. And I spoke with Ava after you two, Ava and C.I., had done your commentary on Friday night, the TV commentary, and that was a point she was making.

C.I.: Right. We take a look this edition at the coverage, TV coverage. News coverage. And we couldn't work ourselves into a happy state. The Downing Street Memos were important and the dismissal of them, in keeping with the mainstream media, results in a number of problems that we have to this day.

Jim: Such as?

C.I.: The lie that "we were all wrong" spoken by pundits, the press and appointed and elected officials. We weren't all wrong. Covering the Downing Street Memos would have required the press seriously address the issue of fixing intel. So they took a pass. Which is why Colin Powell can whine about his "blot" and make false claims that it was all bad intel when, in fact, the administration fixed the intel. The always useless Michael Kinsley offered that the Downing Street Memos weren't news because everyone knew it already. Were that only true. But had they been covered by the mainstream press false claims by the likes of Colin Powell's or Bully Boy's claim last weekend that the intel was wrong would be greeted with the sneering derision such false claims deserve.

Ruth: And one thing to remember on that is that, once again, the people are ahead of the curve there. A large portion.

Elaine: But memory can be a tricky thing and what we know today, countered with false repetition, can weaken that. I can think of any number of issues from the Reagan administration that the public was aware of at the time but has now largely forgotten.

Jess: Or take the Church Committe or the Pike Committee. Revisionist history can and does render many facts invisible.

Mike: I'll jump in and plug Democracy Now!'s upcoming broadcast this Monday which will feature readings of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.

Cedric: I did not know about that. I've been out of it this past week due to practicing for our church program and also caroling with the group. But that's going to be something worth listening to. Howard Zinn is someone who rescues history as opposed to rewriting it.

Jim: Ruth, your thoughts on Howard Zinn?

Ruth: Amazed he's still around. He was a brave voice and an important one in the sixties. It's wonderful that we're still able to benefit from his continued work. It distresses me that so many voices, Zinn, Gloria Steinem and others, haven't necessarily been joined in the ranks by others. My granddaughter Tracey shocked me last spring when she was excited that Gore Vidal was going to be on the TV show Jack & Bobby. I was surprised, pleasantly, that she knew who he was. New brave voices have emerged like Naomi Klein and Arundhati Roy but I'm surprised by how many voices who add so little are embraced today.

Jim: Mike, list some voices that speak to you, and no links to hunt for Dallas, this is a casual roundtable.

Mike: Klein and Roy, to be sure. Dahr Jamail, Katrina vanden Heuvel who my mother loves.

Ruth: Tracey loves her too.

Cedric: And don't forget Robert Parry, Rebecca's not here and she'd never forgive us if we didn't note Robert Parry.

Mike: That's true. And Amy Goodman, absolutely, and, of course, Juan Gonzalez who really gave everything he had to covering the transit strike. Medea Benjamin. Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive. Danny Schechter. Margaret Kimberly. Dave Zirin is a really important voice to me personally and Wally likes his work too. He's focusing on sports and activisim and I think he's someone that could really inspire a lot of people. His book, What's My Name Fool?, was probably my favorite book of the year. But I understand what Ruth's saying because it's a point that my father makes. He points to people like Zinn or Studs Terkel and wonders what's going to happen to our world when these long term voices are gone? C.I.?

C.I.: Well I'm not going to list anyone because I'd get too many e-mails on that. But I'm surprised that, one citation, Nancy Chang is not given more of a platform. And certainly, as Ruth would point out, we have the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Ruth: I was so pleased to be able to hear Michael Ratner on three programs last week. And I am hopeful that this time next year, more voices will be given larger platforms.

Jim: Elaine, your pick for an important development this year?

Elaine: Well, first I'll note someone else, another strong voice that's highlighted at community sites, Kim Gandy. Most recently, Cedric made a point to note NOW.

Cedric: Right because it's a group that's concerned with a huge range of issues. They were there, NOW, for the victims of Katrina, they were there to speak out against the Patriot Act. They have weighed in on the war. Pick an issue and they've used their voice which comes from the organization itself and the strong leadership of Kim Gandy.

Elaine: And one of the issues they've been strong on is reproductive rights. I understand NARAL was under attack from the likes of the so-called FactCheck.org --

C.I.: Jumping in because a friend asked me to work in a phrase, FalseCheck.org.

Elaine: I like that. But attack or not, NARAL backed down when they did have the support of membership. I'm not sure that sort of response helps anyone. With NOW, you don't get the sense, historically not just right now, that they're going to be forced into abandoning a position.

Jess: I'd agree with that and add CODEPINK as well.

Elaine: Good pick. But one issue that came up over and over in 2005 was the attack on reproductive rights. They, the right-wing, were even willing to use Terry Schiavo, a comatose woman, as a pawn in their efforts to remake the landscape. We're not supposed to question the Bully Boy's nominees on reproductive rights because that's apparently a "specialized" issue and not a "universal" one despite the fact that women's health has a huge impact on the nation. We're in the work force and we have some insurance plans that recognize a much smaller range of health options for us than they do for men. Certainly as the ones who give birth, our health impacts children. Equally certain is that with the number of working mothers, health isn't just an health issue for the nation, it's an economic one that incomes both families headed back single parents and those headed by parents where at least one is female and she works. The assault includes an attack not only on abortion rights but also on birth control and upon our right to know about our options. The Justice Department no longer includes information on emergency contraceptives in the information given to rape victims. So this was one of the important issues in 2005 as the right turned up the attacks on reproductive rights and the press largely tended to treat each attack as unconnected when there is a pattern and a framework to these attacks.

Ruth: I'll add to that my own disappointment because I'm old enough to remember Roe v. Wade becoming law and how monumental that day seemed. Now it seems that the organized efforts on the part of a few to overturn it will come to fruition. It's very depressing. Mike, did you offer a story that you felt was important in 2005?

Mike: Not yet. I know we're all trying to pick different topics, so I'll pick Katrina which Cedric's mentioned in terms of racism and how it impacted the lower income people, predominaely people of color, far worse than it did others. But I'd also note, because I know Wally would and we noted it in an editorial here, that it revealed how unprepared our country was to deal with a national emergency, either a natural one or an attack. All the money poured into Homeland Security seems to have gone to sweet heart deals and the basic infrastructure that was in place to protect us has been greatly weakened. When you look at Florida and how many, like Wally's grandfather, went a month or more without electricity and how the same problems, a lack of awareness of how people dependent upon public transportation would be impacted, you realize that nothing was done to fix the problems we supposedly became aware of after Hurricane Katrina.

Cedric: Which leaves Jim to weigh in. Everyone else has discussed at least one of the big issues of 2006. Jim?

Jim: Well, I'll go with the press itself like C.I. did but I'll emphasize the sorry state not just of the system but of certain star reporters such as Judith Miller and Bob Woodward. I'll also note that James Risen could have revealed the NSA spying on American citizens. The claim of the paper is that they sat on the story because Bully Boy asked them to do which is sad in it's own right. But what about Risen? He couldn't do an op-ed on the issue or an article on it for another publication? Since it's the focus of his book due out next month, it's not as though he was acting under a gag order. Like with Woody, you see a desire to personally profit from explosive information that the public has a right to know at the expense of informing the public. I think that's very sorry and an indication of how sad the state of the mainstream press is today. We've seen reporters report spin as fact, cover for an administration that outed a CIA agent and at the same time we've seen reporters willing to put on their author's hats and figure out a way to profit from what they should be reporting in real time. Seymour Hersh had a book come out but he didn't save the Abu Ghraib scandal for the book. He reported it. Too few other "reporters" seem to act out of the same desire to inform the public and that's one of the saddest developments for the press in 2006. And that will close the roundtable. We thank everyone who participated but especially Ruth who volunteered as soon as she learned that we'd have less people contributing to this edition.

All Puff No Politics (parody)

We love our parodies. Our readers tend to as well. Consider this your Christmas gift.

At the intersection of politics and pop culture, you'll find us lost and asking for directions

We Finally Weigh in on the War (Our Official Statement)
A number of critics have expressed disappointment that we've had nothing to say about the war after all this time. I want to note first off that we couldn't provide you with the much needed coverage of Wentworth Miller and snaps for Veronica Mars if we took the time to weigh in on every issue some nut case has.
But as the chorus has grown louder, I felt that possibly, perhaps, maybe we needed to weigh in.
So a number of us sat down to come up with an official statement on the war.
We've been accused of ignoring the deaths and destruction. We've been accused of silence at a time when brave voices were needed.
Not true, say I! Nobody can question our bravery. Not all that long ago, I wrote a piece on pies and Thanksgiving. That wasn't easy for me. I prefer cakes to pies. I would have been happier writing about cakes. But pies matter to a lot of people. And pies were a big issue in circles around the water cooler. So I stepped up to the plate, I bit the bullet, and I found my voice.
You'd think I'd get a little credit for that. I don't know that a great number of other blogs addressed the very important issue of pies and Thanksgiving.
But I did. I did it here. So no one has a right to ever question my stance on the issues.
For those who have been critical, here is this site's official position on the war:

After much soul searching and consulting our leatherbound editions of The New Republic, we have concluded that the war was both necessary and needed. If Americans had not gotten into the war, what kind of world would we live in? Here at All Puff No Politics, we will stand up and state loudly and clearly that we support the actions taken in World War II.

It wasn't easy to come to that conclusion because we are majorly uninformed on most topics that aren't discussed at the A-list table in any high school cafeteria. But we did our work and we are proud to offer our statement on the war. Hopefully, that settles the issue.
-- Pristine

Uh, Pristine, I think people were asking you to make a statement about the Iraq war?

Iraq War? Is that the sequel to Arachnophobia? I hated that movie! Spiders, ugh!

I truly think you should be ashamed of your silence regarding Iraq. I would suggest that you read the chapter entitled "Colony Within the Colony" in Sheila Rowbotham's Women, Resistance & Revolution which came out in 1972.

Lucille, are you as big a drip as you seem? And why would I want to read such a book? How does such a book have anything to say to me? It's not even a Best of containing articles from The New Republic, I bet. We've made our official statement on the war, we support WWII. If that's not good enough for you, I'm sad that you won't be visiting All Puff No Politics anymore.
(I'm not really sad, Lucille. I was sticking my tongue at you while I wrote that I was sad.)

Women's Voices Coming Through Loud and Clear
Everyone must read torture supporter Dotty Bush's
latest at GOPLovingButCentrist Aspiring.com:

What is about torture that's so wrong? I roll up the newspaper and hit my dog over the snout when he's bad. How is that different from torture?
Also do not skip Laughing Lottie and her
addressing the pressing issues effecting women today:

So Dell comes in and starts jabbering right in the middle of Prison
. Wentworth Miller once a week almost makes my marriage
Couldn't he have chosen a better time?
So true, Laughing Lottie, so true. Right Wing Sue further explores the state of womanhood today:

I hate Jane Fonda!!!! Don't you hate Jane Fonda!!!! Jane Fonda's movies set my nerves on edge!

Many influential critics at major media outlets have echoed Right Wing Sue so I will too. Now I'll take a break because it's really hard for a professional journalists like myself to write so much in one entry.

I like Jane Fonda and Monster-In-Law was a funny movie.

Oh beg to differ Marthy, I can give you a list of male critics and male wanna bes at major papers who trashed Monster-In-Law. The film bombed!

Monster-In-Law, starring a white woman over sixty, a Latina woman and an African-American woman, was probably the most inclusive movie, cast wise, last summer. And excuse me, but Ms. picked Jane Fonda as one of their women of the year not all that long ago and Wanda Sykes was on the cover last summer.

Who reads Ms.? I said "major media outlets." Don't you know how to listen! The film bombed!
I'll attack it and Jane Fonda in the name of sisterhood. Deal with it!

Actually, Pristine, the film didn't "bomb." It made over eighty million in a lackluster summer and it outperformed recent films that starred a woman over fifty. It was very funny and addressed the lengths that a woman in crisis could go to. The message was positive. I don't know about your "major media outlets," but I do know that I don't need to judge a woman's performance, or a film's, by what someone writes in the mainstream media especially when they are ignorant enough to call the film a "bomb."

Well aren't you just all full of yourself. What, did you just finish Gloria Steinem's Revolution From Within? I'd urge you to put that time into reading some real papers that concern themselves with larger issues. I can call the film a "bomb" if I want to. Major media outlets did, so I can too. Truth is what institutions dominated by males tell us. You make a silly fool out of yourself Maria.

Has anyone noticed that Pristine writes more in the comments than she wrote in what she considers "her" entry?

Music: Wayne Newton Rocks & Rules!
Grooving on the wild and way cool New Republic!!!! They have the best art's coverage! They have the best everything! (They really showed Arundhati Roy, didn't they! As a pro-feminist male, I applaud them for encouraging violence towards Arundhati Roy.) Hugs and kisses and warm snuggles to everyone at The New Republic. They've turned their probing eyes to the accomplished works of Wayne Newton today so let me give them props, give them links and try to interject myself in the discussion hoping they'll reciprocate!
Wayne Newton is an American institution! His music was pioneering! I'm not sure whether he recorded in the fifties or the sixties and TNR didn't provide that information so let's just say he recorded some time ago. And he did it his way! He even had a huge hit with that song.
Wayne Newton and his music stood for all that is good in America. It represented the American spirit. It represented the Holy Ghost! It represented everything and surely today's rappers owe a great debt to der Newton.
Wayne Newton started it all!
But to prove my "objectivity," let me note that not everything Wayne Newton recorded was excellent. Some songs were merely good. None come to mind because I really don't know what I'm talking about. But I am objective so I need to demonstrate that. I'm like the professor that doesn't believe in handing out more than a couple of A grades because, if I recognize quality in many, that degrades the excellence of my chosen few.
See, there are standards. And standards have been set down in stone. The white, straight, male canon is one that I celebrate because I believe in "quality" and I believe in "tradition." You can see that thought pattern in my work.
So though I love The New Republic and Wayne Newton (I sleep with both under my pillow!) (Well, a photo of Wayne Newton) I must note that excessive praise does no one any good. It's the equivalent of opening up the canon. Preserve our standards and praise be to Alan Bloom!
-- Barney (not the big purple guy)


I have no idea what you're talking about and wonder if you do.

Wayne Newton rocks! Loved him performing at the GOP thing in Florida after we stole
the vote!

Here here for Wayne Newton. F**k yourself, Linus! We own the world.
GOP Party On!

In a pinch, if I couldn't have sex with Bully Boy, I'd so do Wayne Newton. Linus is an idot who needs to be killed. Slowly and painfully tortured to death.

Some of you may have noted that Kat disagrees with me. Well she ignores me. She doesn't even write about me. She's just writing about the "hailstorm" (her term) in the comments. I've written her to demand that she correct her opinion. Like Glenn Close in Fatal Beauty, I will not be ignored! So go over to her site and give her hell. I found a way to scream at her in an e-mail and I bet you will too. Burn the witch! Bash the bitch! Motto for now and forever!

Barney, you the man! Way to put that uppity girl in her place. I'm as sick as you are of chicks thinking they can have their own opinion. Give me my marching orders, Barney, I will follow!

Excuse me but I enjoyed Kat's post. As someone who has long supported Pristine's work, I'm surprised by the tone of the comments here and the deliberate attempts to distort. Frank Sinatra had the hit with "My Way," Glenn Close starred in Fatal Attraction, not Fatal Beauty, and Kat used the term "firestorm," not "hail storm." As a Latina woman, I'm hesitant to post here considering the anti-woman nature of the comments and the fact that there seems to be no effort to question or explore "conventional wisdom" that always inducts white males into the canon but reduces others to the margins.

Maria, I'm not thrilled with the comments here either but Barney linked to himself on a Wayne Newton fan site which has brought us a lot of traffic (we've had twelve hits today!). I could have defended Linus but really, what was the point? He disagreed with Barney and I only support free speech when it's me or Barney. As for Kat, I read her blog.
She's not very smart. Barney's a much better writer. As a feminist, I have no trouble tearing down a woman to build up a man and neither should you. If she can't get with the program and blindly cheerlead every white male in creation then she has to take her lumps. I'm very interested in hearing your opinions as a Latina. Feel free to post more so I can ignore your points (like Barney's factual errors that you point out) and trash you as I have Kat.

On Protecting Our Daughters
Daughters are important to the future. Without them, who would our sons marry? (For those offended by the question, we'll post a transgender post tomorrow so give me a break already!)
And it's important that we raise our daughters to realize both what their rights are and what their rights aren't. Rights are a finite thing.
Which is why I recommend that every Thursday night, if you have a daughter, or maybe if there's a young teenager in the neighobrhood that you speak with, you sit down with her to watch UPN's Veronica Mars which is like mainlining Joss Whedon on an empty stomach! See Veronica Mars is an empowerment role model for young girls. For instance, last year she went around screaming she was raped. This year, she finally had to face reality that she chose to have sex. That's an important message for young women, one they need to hear.
I'm so glad and so proud that Veronica Mars has made year two about crying false rape. I can get behind that message.

You have truly lost it. You need to read Susan Brownmiller's Against Our Will and possibly put some actual thought into what you write.

What do you want from me, Lucille? Am I supposed to consult you for a reading list????
Excuse me, but I just got season seven of Buffy on DVD and I think that says a lot more than any dopey book could. I'm also hard at work, something you might want to try doing, attempting to break my record for most views of a movie (72 for Lethal Weapon II) with Serendipity and I'm only up to 64 on that so I don't exactly have a great deal of time.

TV: The year 2005 in news

We'd circle up and do highs and lows but the reality is that there haven't been a lot of highs in TV news in 2005. There have been a lot of lows.

Where to start? Let's start with the cable chat & chews hosted by persons claiming to be journalists. They provide entertainment (to someone apparently), not news and they're not doing a thing that Johnny Carson didn't do (with better guests). Johnny Carson was a "host" not a "journalist." So in 2006, let's hope we can all agree that Joe Scarborough, et al aren't "journalists" -- they're TV hosts.

And that goes for the "commentators" as well. Whether they, for instance, host a Sunday chat & chew or something else. Parlaying a pundit job into your own program doesn't make you a journalist. Those whose first names are Nancy or George should especially pay attention to that.

With that, we've basically dispensed with cable and the Sunday "public affairs" programming.

What's left?

The evening news? For all the talk in 2005 about the brave changes made in the selection of new anchors, we aren't seeing it.

Elisabeth Vargas will now host ABC's World News Tonight. That's apparently a "breakthrough" to hear people talk of it. A woman! As host!

Well, co-host.

It's so brave, it's never been done! If you're not old enough to remember Connie Chung as co-anchor on CBS' evening news or, dropping further back, Barbara Walters doing the same thing in the seventies at ABC. Yes, Virginia, women have been co-anchors before. A woman as sole anchor during the week (not filling in for a vacationing anchor) is the thing we still haven't seen on broadcast TV. Will broadcast TV die (The New York Times editorialized it's death this month) before a woman anchors an evening news program during the week?

Some are placing their bets on Katie Couric (whom both of us know) and CBS is seriously interested. NBC is seriously interested in making sure she doesn't leave. Which is why you see all the anti-Katie stories in the last year. NBC did a similar thing when David Letterman was thinking of jumping ship. For the network, it's a curious balancing act. They need to raise Couric's negatives enough to make CBS question their own interest while not raising so many negatives that it effects viewership of The Today Show. Currently, execs still wonder if The New Yorker profile didn't cross the line. (If Good Morning America continues to rise in the ratings and takes over Today, that article will take the blame.)

The raising of negatives on Couric remains the one news topic no one wanted to tackle. Apparently some still hold to the belief that some things are just not done in the new biz. So, if it helps to get the conversation started, let's note that the entertainment industry has invaded the news biz and what's been done to Couric is no different than what the networks have long done to various talents.

Ever watch a show written/created by someone who did the "hot" show right before? You wonder why this new show, on a different network, airs on one of the worst nights for the network it's on, why there's no promotion for it. Don't they want to have a hit? No, sometimes they just want to tie up talent. That's only one way it works in entertainment television (another is development deals that tap the creative juices of all involved as each idea is "almost" what the network's looking for, so work on it some more . . . and some more . . . and some more . . .).

So let's be really clear that the "useful" sources who've come out in the past year to take some of the shine off Couric aren't whistle blowers, they're corporate patsies doing the bidding of their network.

The biggest news story on the TV news industry of the year? Two actually. The first is Dan Rather, the second is Peter Jennings. Both left their anchor duties this year. Dan Rather "retired" and Peter Jennings passed away. With Jennings' passing a large portion of ABC's committment to news passed as well. Some people are "shocked" at the new Ted Koppel-less Nightline which seems to be about many things but rarely about the news. Did they miss the "tribute" to Peter Jennings? Peter Jennings Reporter was about everything but reporting. It was about "tone," it was about looks, it was about a love of the Constitution, it just wasn't about news. Everyone at ABC isn't acquiescing, but the media coverage has.

Dan Rather was a) ready to go or b) burned. If you accept the latter, the general consensus (put forth by commentators and Mary Mapes) is that CBS was knocked for a loop by the bloggers. That's a pretty little fairytale but a fairytale none the less. The bloggers were the assassins, the ones who hired them were of the same group of Republicans that have plotted Rather's downfall from day one. What made them successful was a corporate parent (Viacom) that wasn't interested in news, let alone defending news. From a review committee that decided journalism was based upon something other than the basic guidelines (which we saw CNN do in the nineties as well) to a gag order on those involved, CBS wasn't interested in the actual report. Ten years ago, CBS News could have fought back. The times aren't a'changing, they have changed.

Which is how we arrive at Brian Williams, an "objective" anchor who can brag about listening to Rush Limbaugh and writing Richard Nixon as a child. NBC knew his "committment" to the news before Tom Brokaw retired, it was on display in an interview with Jay Leno where Williams opined that, as a father, he felt a responsibility to airing apparent kid friendly stories. In another time, he would have been informed that the network was looking for a newsperson, not a parent. In our present time, it was cause to "oooh" and "aaawe" over Williams disowning a committment to the news. Williams is the younger, slightly more attractive Brit Hume. Translation, he's not a news person.

What does that leave? The news magazines and "news" magazines as well as the documentaries? The documentaries?

Well if you want religious musings, 2005 provided you with "news" documentaries. A whole generation (two?) have come of age never grasping that news documentaries once explored serious topics such as pollution, sexuality, graft, poverty and much more. These days, we're supposed to be happy with trips to the "holy lands" (Vatican and Jerusalem) and Barbara Walters and guests musing about heaven. There was a time when news documentaries were supposed to help you comprehend the world around you, these days they're too busy selling you the after life.

News magazines? There's 60 Minutes. You can make jokes about the age of the on air talent (and many do) but if the alternative is Steve Croft, let's all hope the others hang on awhile longer. 60 Minutes II is gone and that's probably not a bad thing. After refusing to air the story on the Niger (fake) documents relating to "yellow cake" before the election, they never redeamed themselves and may have hit an all time low with Scott Pelley's report on Giuliana Sgrena (April 13, 2005).

"Let's take this piece by piece," Pelley stated after Sgrena said that she thought the claims of the US military, that they had fired warned shots to alert the vehicle she was traveling in, were lies. America waited for Pelley to take it piece by piece. They were disappointed.

Pelley states the shots came from the front and that the engine block was the target (of the warning shots?) and then offers a spokesperson discussing how hard, outside of films, it is to shoot the engine block of a moving car. "Piece by piece" would have included exploring Sgrena's statements that the car was shot from behind. As Pelley pieced it together, he never raised that issue.

So 60 Minutes II bit the dust in 2005. 20/20 remained. The show where Elizabeth Vargas demonstrated that she knew how to "play nice" with nonobjective "reporters" (via John Stossel). 20/20 hit the crapper long before Stossel became a regular. Since he's become a permanent fixture (and co-host), it's never left. The network that's long felt George Will provided "balance" to reporters (well that's how some see Cokie Roberts!) on This Week feels that Stossel does the same on 20/20.

20/20? The platform of choice when you want to spin because there are no hard questions, no uncomfortable moments, for the powerful. Which is why Walters got the "get" with Colin Powell. Where else could he be assured of such loving treatment? His large role in lying the country into an illegal war?

Powell: Well it's a, it's a, of course it will. It's a blot. I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United Nations, uh, United States, to the world. And it will always be uh, part of my, uh, my record.

What's the obvious follow up? "How did this happen?" Oh, no, not on 20/20. Here's how Walters immediately "pursued" that topic:

Walters: How painful is it?
Powell: (shrugs) It was -- it was painful. (shifts, shrugs) It's painful now.

Oh, how hard it was for him, how lucky he was to have the Mother Confessor, the person who gave touchy-feely it's bad name, to nod sympathetically, to let her eyes mist over and to toss common sense out the window. That approach served Colin Powell very well.

What's left? Prime Time Live that's never known what it is but is called "televised Herpes" by some due to its pattern of regularly disappearing only to pop back up. There's 48 Hours which really should partner up with Vanity Fair as it continues to "bravely"explore the true crimes of the rich. And there's our friends at Dateline and their severe case of the warm fuzzies.

2005 presented one news magazine (60 Minutes) and a lot of news-ish magazines. The news-ish magazines offered slighlty more newish gossip in an hour than the morning "news" programs did. That's about the best that can be said for them. Considering that each network now appears to believe that the morning "news" programs exist as a video version of TV Guide (as they rush to promote their own shows), that's not saying much. But until the night that John Stossel feels the needs to pontificate on the "values" at work in ABC's Desperate Housewives, that still puts the news-ish magazines slightly ahead of the morning news.

"Wait, wait," you say, "that's rather harsh! And you're forgetting PBS!"

It is harsh. TV news is in an ugly state. (New Orleans appears to have changed nothing but the paychecks of a few.) As for PBS . . .

Their flagship is The NewsHour which actually outperforms Fox "News" in viewership. For those who don't like scream-fests, The News Hour provides them with something. Mainly the ability to see the right debate centrists who are presented as liberals. But they also get anchors and reporters who shy away from asking the needed questions. Sometimes that results from a fear of rocking the boat, sometimes it results from an undisclosed personal friendship with the person being interviewed. (Yes, Gwen, we mean you.) Think of it as The Access Hour and realize that The NewsHour exists to present official sources and official arguments and, most importantly, the only thing "public" in public television is the public's ability to watch.

"Okay, okay, maybe that is true of The NewsHour but there's Frontline!"

When you've become better known in the industry for the stories you killed than for the ones you actually aired, it may be time to stop pretending your interested in the news.

Are we overly harsh? This is the year that the Downing Street Memos were huge news . . . online if not on your TV screen. Bill Frist and Tom DeLay's current troubles haven't resulted in the feeding frenzy that surrounded Gary Condit. If DeLay were accused of fooling around with an intern, would that be news? He's been indicted and that's really not registered on your TV screens where "balance" means the charges against DeLay are aired and then attacks on the prosecutor. And the press? Do they did around to find out the truth? No, they stand on the sidelines waiting to see who "wins."

The public loses. And this passes for news.

The reach of television news, even with eroding bases for the network news, is still impressive, far greater than anything a blog or group of blogs can reach in a single day. But CBS wants you to believe Dan Rather & company were taken down by (independent) bloggers. It's an easy out.
You can sell it to stockholders when they complain about the ratings. It's just not reality. You can argue that bloggers filled a silence that CBS imposed and, therefore, won the war. You just can't rationally argue that the mighty CBS News division couldn't hold their own against bloggers in a fair fight.

The Dan Rather tale, for those who missed it, revolves around the September National Guard story that aired on CBS' 60 Minutes II. "Did the Bully Boy serve his obligation or not?" was the question of the segment. Building on Ben Barnes' statements and the public record, the story was supplemented with documents (which have never been proven to be fakes). The documents were attacked. CBS could have fought back. They had the resources. They certainly had the public record on their side for the argument that Bully Boy did not live up to his obligations in the National Guard. But when the right-wing attacks, the networks rush to make ammends. (Which is how you end up with George Will on ABC in the first place.)

They've done that for years, decades now. (So have many in the print business and, of course, NPR.) Many now speak of a 'hostile' climate and fret about 'tone' (aided by gatekeepers from other outlets). We're not overly fond of Hillary Clinton right now but her statement on Today re: a vast right-wing conspiracy did finally wake up some on the left. As the left rushes in to argue their own case (in a variety of voices, through a variety of means) now there's a hostile climate? Now there's a hostile climate? Now?

The way it's worked for years, the reason for why we are where we are now, is that the right hollers bias and the networks rush in to woo a Newt or a Will or take your pick. The whole room moves to the right and that's been okay for decades. The left finally wakes up (some on the left were always awake) and it's time to tut-tut and whine. The "great and powerful" Koppel can bring on a Not So Swift Floatie and let his spin go unchecked. And a struggling book author wants to whine about the "tone"? Those are the sort of non-issues that result in Mark Shields and others playing a liberal on TV when they're anything but.

When not appeasing the right, they like to hide behind Judith Miller. As though she were the only one putting out administration talking points. We don't remember her on NBC airing false charges about Paul O'Neill that merely reading the introduction to The Price of Loyalty (the book the reporter was reporting on) would have refuted. (No, Stretch, we have not forgotten.) Miller wasn't a CBS correspondent or an ABC one either. When she appeared on any network, PBS for example, it was as an invited guest. When she wasn't on, there were plenty of "reporters" willing to to ape her lead. They're still not being held accountable.

So forgive us for not being excited. But it's Christmas, for those celebrating, and we'll say one kind thing about TV journalism: if you're fortunate enough to get Democracy Now! on your TV screen, you are getting one news program. You may watch on a PBS, or on a public access channel, or on DISH network: Free Speech TV ch. 9415 or on Link TV ch. 9410; DIRECTV: Link TV ch. 375 but, if you're seeing it on a TV screen, take a good hard look. That's what TV news can be as opposed to what it too often is on the networks.

DVD: Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices

California Jury Awards $172M to Wal-Mart Employees
And in California, a jury has awarded $172 million dollars to over 110,000 current and former Wal-Mart employees who said they were illegally denied lunch breaks. The jury found that Wal-Mart violated a state law that guarantees an unpaid half-hour lunch break to workers who work at least six hours, and grants them an extra hour's pay if they are denied this break. Wal-Mart says it will appeal the ruling. The case is one of around 40 across the country where Wal-Mart stands accused of workplace violations.

The above is from Democracy Now! Friday. Wal-Mart, the supposed friend of workers, families, communities and just about everyone other than the makers of NC17 and X-rated films. It's a nice image, it's just not true. If you're still caught up in the hype, there's a sure cure for it, Robert Greenwald's Wal*Mart: the high cost of low price. This film is available on DVD and distributed by a number of sites (including BuzzFlash) as well as online at their own site.

Greenwald's done a series of documentaries in recent years and this one may be the most effective. Via interviews with former Wal-Mart workers, the human costs of corporate greed are underscored. It's one thing to see the figures for the amount of Wal-Mart workers on public assistance (which the film provides), it's quite another to see, for instance, people share their own stories of how the low wages (and inflated premiums for coverage) impacted their lives. One woman notes that you have a sick child and you need to put food on the table, on Wal-Mart wages, so what do you do? Give the child an aspirin and try to be your own doctor.

Wal-Mart, which grosses billions each year, can't be bothered with providing adequate wages or health care to its workers. (Despite the speeches of corporate officials which Greenwald nicely juxtaposes with the actual realities.) They can insist upon tax breaks.

The film is 97 minutes. As such it can't include everything. It rightly notes how stores close down when the tax breaks run out and move out of cities. There's another technique they use (something community members have noted in countless e-mails) which is to abandon a store in a small town when their breaks are about to run out and insist upon new breaks for a new store that they will build in the small town. That has been just destructive as their pulling out of towns and cities when the breaks expire.

The film also addresses the reality of where Wal-Mart (which likes to boast of supporting American businesses) gets so much of its stock: from China. The sweat shop issue is raised and personalized as we hear one woman explain the conditions under which she works and, in fact, under which she lives for she's required to pay lodging for a dorm whether she lives there or not.

The effects on small businesses (Wal-Mart tends to flatten out all competitors when it moves into an area) are also noted. One woman notes that downtown in her town used to be packed before Wal-Mart came to town. One year, she counted the cars downtown. They numbered twelve.

Between abatements and breaks, Wal-Mart actually contributes very little to the communities it invades. It does add to the welfare rolls and instructs its workers on how to get assistance.

One moment that most drives home the "values" of Wal-Mart comes when noting a fund for workers who experience a health crisis. Employees donated over five million dollars to the fund. The Waltons (who are enriched by the family business)? They donated less than seven thousand dollars.

In larger areas, people have choices of where to shop and if you live in such an area, you'd be smart to ask yourself what exactly you are purchasing when you buy from Wal-Mart. In smaller areas, they may be the only game in town and you may have no choice. Regardless of where you live, Wal-Mart: the high cost of low price is a film you should consider watching.

The business model that is Wal-Mart is spreading. And why not? If a company as large as Wal-Mart can get away with not paying overtime, with discriminating against women, with failure to provide health care and moving workers to the public assistance rolls, why shouldn't other companies attempt it as well?

This film tackles large issues in a way that will inform you and move you.

"Bush aprueba espionaje telefónico a ciudadanos estadounidenses sin orden judicial"

"Bush aprueba espionaje telefónico a ciudadanos estadounidenses sin orden judicial"

Francisco: Hola mis amigos y amigas. Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano Nuevo 2006. El jefe "Bully Boy" Bush tuvo una semana muy mala. Aqui estan once "Democracy Now!" las noticias.

Bush aprueba espionaje telefónico a ciudadanos estadounidenses sin orden judicial
El Presidente Bush admitió que secretamente ordenó a la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional escuchar las conversaciones de los ciudadanos estadounidenses sin siquiera solicitar las órdenes aprobadas por el Poder Judicial que exige la Constitución. Al comienzo, el Presidente se negó a contestar cualquier pregunta sobre el programa secreto, pero el sábado habló abiertamente sobre el asunto y defendió esa práctica.El Presidente Bush dijo: "Yo autoricé a la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional, consecuentemente con la ley estadounidense y la Constitución, a interceptar las comunicaciones internacionales de personas de las que se sabe que tienen vínculos con al Qaeda y organizaciones terroristas que están relacionadas con ese grupo".Esta revelación surgió solo días después de que NBC News informó que el Pentágono expandió ampliamente sus operaciones de vigilancia en Estados Unidos, entre las que se encontraba la vigilancia de los manifestantes pacíficos en contra de la guerra.

Senador Leahy: No más ordenes secretas, tribunales secretos y tortura secreta
Muchos expertos legales acusaron al Presidente de infringir la ley al ordenar que se realizaran escuchas telefónicas sin la orden judicial requerida por la Ley de Vigilancia de Inteligencia Extranjera.
El Senador demócrata Patrick Leahy de Vermont dijo: "Este programa de espionaje de conversaciones sin una orden no está autorizado por la Ley Patriota, no está autorizado por ninguna ley del Congreso, y no está supervisado por ningún tribunal. Y según informes, fue llevado a cabo por una orden secreta del Presidente, basada en opiniones legales secretas del mismo Departamento de Justicia, de abogados que secretamente argumentaron que el presidente podía ordenar la utilización de la tortura. Señor Presidente, ya es hora de tener algunos controles y contrapesos en este país, somos una democracia. Somos una democracia. Tengamos controles y contrapesos, no órdenes secretas y tribunales secretos y tortura secreta, y así sucesivamente".

El FBI espió a Greenpeace, PETA y Catholic Worker
En Washington, documentos que se dieron a conocer recientemente indican que agentes antiterroristas del Buró Federal de Investigaciones (FBI) han estado vigilando a grupos activistas entre los que se encuentran Greenpeace, Catholic Worker (Trabajador Católico), el Comité Árabe-Estadounidense contra la discriminación y PETA (Gente por el Trato Ético a los Animales). Los documentos indican que el FBI controló las manifestaciones organizadas por estos grupos y utilizo informantes confidenciales dentro de las organizaciones para obtener información. En un caso, registros del gobierno muestran que el FBI lanzó una investigación sobre PETA por terrorismo, en Norfolk, Virginia. Según el "Washington Post", los documentos no ofrecen pruebas sobre la vinculación de PETA con actividades ilegales. Pero más de 100 páginas de expedientes del FBI severamente censuradas indican que la agencia utilizó informantes secretos y vigiló las actividades de este grupo por años. El FBI también controló actividades políticas en los predios universitarios. Un expediente del FBI contenía una lista de contactos de estudiantes y activistas por la paz que asistieron a una conferencia en la Universidad de Stanford en 2002, con el objetivo de terminar con las sanciones que se aplicaban en aquel entonces a Irak. Esta es la tercera gran revelación que se produjo recientemente sobre espionaje en Estados Unidos. La semana pasada, NBC News reveló que el Pentágono ha estado vigilando a activistas pacíficos en contra de la guerra, y el "New York Times" expuso como el Presidente Bush ordenó a la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional (NSA, por sus siglas en inglés) espiar las conversaciones de los ciudadanos estadounidenses sin órdenes aprobadas por el Poder Judicial. Ann Beeson, de la Unión Estadounidense por las Libertades Civiles (ACLU, por su siglas en inglés) dijo: "Esta claro que este gobierno utilizó todas las agencias posibles, desde el Pentágono hasta la NSA y el FBI, para espiar a los ciudadanos estadounidenses".

Daschle: Al gobierno de Bush se le negó autoridad para conducir espionajes
En Washington, el ex líder de la Minoría del Senado, Tom Daschle, reveló detalles antes desconocidos que ponen en duda las afirmaciones del gobierno de Bush de que tiene autoridad legal para espiar a los ciudadanos estadounidenses y extranjeros en Estados Unidos. La Casa Blanca dice que la autoridad le fue otorgada implícitamente en la resolución conjunta del Congreso que autorizaba la utilización de la fuerza poco después de los atentados del 11 de septiembre. Pero en la edición de hoy del "Washington Post", Daschle asegura que el gobierno de Bush solicitó sin éxito la autoridad que ahora dice que le fue otorgada.
El ex líder de la minoría del Senado, Tom Daschle, dijo: "Literalmente minutos antes de que el Senado votara, el gobierno pidió que se incorporaran las palabras 'en Estados Unidos y' después 'fuerza adecuada' al texto. Este cambio de último momento le hubiera otorgado al presidente gran autoridad para ejercer poderes ampliados no sólo en el extranjero, donde todos entendimos que quería autoridad para actuar, sino también aquí mismo, en Estados Unidos, potencialmente contra ciudadanos estadounidenses. No pude ver ninguna justificación para que el Congreso accediera a ese pedido extraordinario de autoridad adicional. Yo me rehusé".

Departamento de Justicia admite que programa de espionaje no cumple con FISA
Esa revelación surgió mientras el Departamento de Justicia admitía que el programa de espionaje del Presidente no cumple la Ley de Vigilancia de Inteligencia Extranjera (FISA, por sus siglas en inglés). Junto con otro estatuto de espionaje telefónico, FISA se define a si misma como: "los medios exclusivos mediante los cuales la vigilancia electrónica (...) puede ser llevada a cabo". Esta admisión fue realizada el jueves en una carta al Congreso.

Jueces de Tribunal de Supervisión elaboran documento sobre programa de espionaje
En otras noticias, el "Washington Post" informa que el juez que preside el Tribunal de Supervisión de Inteligencia en el Extranjero convocó a otros jueces integrantes de ese organismo a una reunión informativa, acerca de la revelación de que el presidente Bush autorizó espionaje interno sin órdenes judiciales, que solamente ese Tribunal puede emitir. La noticia surge luego de que uno de los diez jueces que presiden el Tribunal, James Roberston, presentó su renuncia el lunes como medida de protesta.

Juez del Tribunal de Supervisión renuncia en protesta por el programa de espionaje de Bush
Esta noticia es sobre el programa de espionaje del gobierno de Bush en Estados Unidos. El "Washington Post" informa que un juez renunció al principal tribunal para casos de espionaje del país, en protesta por el programa secreto por el que la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional ha espiado las conversaciones de los ciudadanos estadounidenses sin órdenes aprobadas por el Poder Judicial. El Juez de Distrito estadounidense James Robertson, uno de los once miembros del tribunal secreto de Supervisión de Inteligencia Extranjera (FISC, por sus siglas en inglés) secreto, presentó su renuncia el lunes. Robertson presuntamente pensó que la legalidad del programa era cuestionable y que podía haber perjudicado el trabajo del tribunal, que es considerado la única autoridad competente para autorizar espionajes telefónicos en Estados Unidos.

Bush dijo en 2004 que el espionaje telefónico podía realizarse únicamente con la aprobación del Poder Judicial
El gobierno de Bush argumentó que el programa es legal, en el marco de la autorizaciones para operaciones de vigilancia otorgada por el Congreso al Poder Ejecutivo poco después del los atentados del 11 de septiembre. Pero en abril del año pasado, el Presidente Bush dijo a periodistas que el espionaje telefónico sólo podía realizarse si el Poder Judicial lo aprobaba.
El Presidente Bush, 20 de abril de 2004: "Ahora, por cierto, cada vez que escuchen al gobierno de Estados Unidos hablar de espionaje telefónico, esto requiere, el espionaje telefónico requiere, una orden del Poder Judicial. Nada ha cambiado, por cierto. Cuando hablamos de perseguir a los terroristas, hablamos de obtener una orden judicial antes de hacerlo".
La Casa Blanca dice ahora que Bush se refería sólo a las acciones que se realizaran en el marco de la Ley Patriota.

Informe: Espionaje controlaba exclusivamente comunicaciones dentro de Estados Unidos
Mientras tanto, el "New York Times" informa que el programa de espionaje controló comunicaciones que eran exclusivamente nacionales, a pesar de las que altos funcionarios del gobierno afirmaron recientemente que las comunicaciones interceptadas eran con el extranjero. Funcionarios del gobierno dijeron al "Times" que las intercepciones fueron “accidentales”.A principio de esta semana, el General Michael V. Hayden, ex director de la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional (NSA, por sus siglas en inglés) y actualmente el segundo funcionario al mando en la inteligencia del país, dijo a periodistas: "Puedo asegurarles, por la parte física de la intercepción, por cómo llevamos a cabo nuestras actividades, que estas comunicaciones son siempre con lugares fuera de Estados Unidos".
El Procurador General Alberto R. Gonzales lo reafirmó y dijo: "La gente anda diciendo por ahí que Estados Unidos está de alguna manera espiando a los ciudadanos estadounidenses cuando hablan con sus vecinos. (Es) muy, muy importante entender que las comunicaciones deben ser con alguien fuera de Estados Unidos".

Informe: Departamento de Policía de Nueva York envió agentes encubiertos a protestas, manifestaciones y vigilia
El "New York Times" dice que obtuvo vídeos que muestran al Departamento de Policía de Nueva York realizando vigilancia a través de oficiales de incógnito durante protestas en contra de la guerra, manifestaciones en bicicleta e incluso en una vigilia callejera realizada en honor a un ciclista muerto. Los oficiales sostenían símbolos de protesta, llevaban flores junto a los que estaban de luto, montaban bicicletas, y filmaban a los presentes.En un caso, el arresto simulado de un oficial encubierto durante una manifestación fuera de la Convención Nacional Republicana provocó un grave enfrentamiento entre la policía antidisturbios y transeúntes, que terminó en el arresto de dos personas. Los transeúntes habían gritado "Déjenlo ir". El "Times" dice que las filmaciones muestran a por lo menos 10 agentes encubiertos participando en siete reuniones públicas desde la Convención Republicana de agosto de 2004.

Juez federal dice que detenciones en Guantánamo son "ilícitas"
Esta noticia proviene de Bahía de Guantánamo. El "Washington Post" informa que un juez federal dictaminó que el arresto de dos personas de la etnia uighur en esa prisión estadounidense es "ilícito", pero dice que no tiene competencia para liberarlos. El jueves, el juez de distrito estadounidense James Roberston dijo que el gobierno ha demorado demasiado en liberar a Abu Bakker Qassim y a Adel Abdu Hakim, que han estado en prisión durante cuatro años. Se dio curso a la liberación de ambos, pero no los enviaron de regreso a China, donde se considera probable que sean torturados o ejecutados. Los dos hombres están entre nueve reclusos que permanecen detenidos en Guantánamo a pesar de que se ha declarado que "ya no son combatientes enemigos". En el fallo, el juez Robertson escribió: "El uso que hace el gobierno del término kafkiano 'ya no son combatientes enemigos' hace surgir deliberadamente la pregunta acerca de si los apelantes alguna vez fueron combatientes enemigos."

Francisco: Hello, friends. Season's greetings. Here in English are thirteen headlines from Democracy Now! Why thirteen? The Spanish headlines lumped three together into one. So there are eleven headlines in Spanish and thirteen in English.

Bush Okd Secret Wiretapping of Americans Without Warrants
President Bush has admitted that he secretly ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without ever seeking constitutionally required court approved warrants. The president initially refused to answer any questions about the secret program but on Saturday he spoke openly about it and defended the practicePresident Bush: "I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations."The admission came just days after NBC News reported the Pentagon has vastly expanded its domestic surveillance operations including the monitoring of peaceful anti-war protesters.

Sen. Leahy: No More Secret Orders, Secret Courts, Secret Torture
Many legal experts have accused the President of breaking the law by ordering the wiretappings without a court warrant as required under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT): "This warrant-less eavesdropping program is not authorized by the patriot act, it's not authorized by any act of congress, and it's not overseen by any court. And according to reports it has been conducted under a secret presidential order, based on secret legal opinions by the same justice department, lawyers who argued secretly, that the president could order the use of torture. Mr. President, it is time to have some checks and balances in this country, we are a democracy. We are a democracy. Let's have checks and balances, not secret orders and secret courts and secret torture, and on and on."

FBI Spied on Greenpeace, PETA, Catholic Worker
In Washington, newly released documents show counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been monitoring domestic activist groups including Greenpeace, Catholic Worker, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and PETA, the People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The documents indicate the F.B.I. monitored protests organized by the groups and used confidential informants inside the organizations to gain intelligence. In one case, government records show the FBI launched a terrorism investigation of PETA in Norfolk, Virginia.

Documents Show FBI Agents Tracked PETA For Years
According to the Washington Post, the documents offer no proof of PETA's involvement in illegal activity. But more than 100 pages of heavily censored FBI files show the agency used secret informants and tracked the group's events for years. The FBI also monitored political activities on college campuses. One FBI file included a contact list for students and peace activists who attended a 2002 conference at Stanford University aimed at ending sanctions then in place in Iraq.

Reports Expose Growing Domestic Surveillance
This is the third major recent revelation about domestic spying. Last week NBC News revealed the Pentagon has been monitoring peaceful anti-war protesters and the New York Times exposed how President Bush ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without court-approved warrants. Ann Beeson, of the American Civil Liberties Union said "It's clear that this administration has engaged every possible agency, from the Pentagon to N.S.A. to the F.B.I., to engage in spying on Americans."

Daschle: Bush Administration Was Denied Spy Authority
In Washington, former Senate Minority leader Tom Daschle has disclosed previously unknown details that challenge the Bush administration's claim it has legal authority to eavesdrop on Americans and foreign nationals in the US. The White House says the authority was implicitly granted in the joint Congressional resolution authorizing the use of force passed shortly after 9/11. But in today's Washington Post, Daschle claims the Bush administration requested, but was denied, the authority it now claims it was granted.
Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle: "Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words 'in the United States and' after 'appropriate force' in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused."

Justice Dept. Admits Spy Program Does Not Comply With FISA
The disclosure comes as the Justice Department has admitted that the President's eavesdropping program does not comply with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Along with another wiretapping statute, FISA defines itself as: "the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance . . . may be conducted." The admission came in a letter to Congress Thursday.

Surveillance Court Judges To Hold Briefing on Espionage Program
In other news, the Washington Post is reporting the presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has arranged a briefing for fellow judges to address the revelation President Bush authorized domestic-spying without court warrants only they can approve. The news comes as one of the court’s 10 presiding judges, James Robertson, submitted his resignation in protest Monday.

Surveillance Court Judge Resigns in Protest of Bush Spy Program
This news on the Bush administration’s domestic espionage program: the Washington Post is reporting a judge has resigned from the country’s top spy court in protest of the secret program in which the National Security Agency has eavesdropped on Americans without court-approved warrants. U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, submitted his resignation Monday. The court is regarded as the only authority to authorize wire-taps for domestic espionage.

Bush in 2004: "Wiretap Requires A Court Order"
President Bush has argued eavesdropping without court-approved warrants is legal under authority granted by Congress shortly after 9/11. But in April of last year President Bush told reporters wire-taps were only conducted with court approval.President Bush, April 20, 2004: "Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."The White House is now claiming Bush was referring only to actions taken under the Patriot Act.

Report: Espionage Monitored Purely Domestic Communications Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting the espionage program monitored communications that were entirely domestic -- despite recent assurances from top administration officials that one end of the intercepted communications came from abroad. Government officials told the Times the intercepts were "accidental."Earlier this week, former NSA director Gen. Michael V. Hayden, currently the second-ranking intelligence official in the country, told reporters: "I can assure you, by the physics of the intercept, by how we actually conduct our activities, that one end of these communications are always outside the United States."
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales made the same claim: "People are running around saying that the United States is somehow spying on American citizens calling their neighbors. [Its] very, very important to understand that one party to the communication has to be outside the United States."

Report: NYPD Planted Undercover Agents At Protests, Rallies, Vigil
The New York Times says it has obtained videotapes that show the New York Police Department conducting surveillance by planting undercover officers at anti-war protests, bike rallies, and even a street vigil for a dead cyclist. The officers held protest signs, held flowers with mourners, rode their bicycles – and videotaped the people present.In one case, the faked arrest of an undercover officer at a demonstration outside the Republican National Convention led to a serious confrontation between riot police and bystanders that led to the arrest of two people. The bystanders had shouted “Let him go!” The Times says the tapes show at least 10 undercover operatives taking part in seven public gatherings since the Republican Convention in August 2004.

Federal Judge Calls Gitmo Detentions "Unlawful"
This news on Guantanamo Bay: the Washington Post is reporting a federal judge has ruled the detention of two ethnic Uighurs at the U.S. prison is "unlawful", but says he does not have the authority to release them. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge James Robertson said the government has taken too long to release Abu Bakker Qassim and Adel Abdu Hakim -- who have been jailed for four years. The two have been cleared for release, but not returned to China where they would likely face torture or execution.. The two men are among nine detainees that remain at Guantanamo despite having been declared "no longer enemy combatants." In his ruling, Judge Robertson wrote: "The government's use of the Kafka-esque term 'no longer enemy combatants' deliberately begs the question of whether these petitioners ever were enemy combatants."
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