Saturday, February 7, 2009
Close It Now
Horrific stories – of hunger strikes, force feedings, beatings and deteriorating conditions – out of Guantanamo from the Guardian . They pose an urgent challenge to the new Obama administration: Now is the time for change we can believe in.
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Let Us Now Praise Our Clearly Partial Predecessors
It's good to see the discussion about some key questions in journalism – what's it about, what are the rules, why bother? – in the AP's Tom Curley speech and in Robert Fisk's CD Views piece today. Fisk takes on the time-honored, ever-absurd myth of journalistic impartiality by citing some fine writers of the past who dared to care about what they wrote, and wrote much better for it. I would add to the list: George Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia," his impassioned report from the Spanish Civil War; and James Agee's "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men," a singularly searing, poignant portrait of tenant farmers in the South during the Depression that bears no resemblance whatsoever to traditional journalism, but wholly fulfills its purpose – to tell the truth, and make us care.
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Friday, February 6, 2009
All The News That We Deem Fit to Print
Just as in Vietnam, the Bush Administration made it harder for journalists to tell the truth about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan even while the military propaganda machine worked harder to give the public its own embellished version of events, the head of the Associated Press said Friday. Tom Curley said the press must insist on its right to report the truth at all times, even on the battlefield, because "we are the only force out there to keep the government in check." Now is the time to re-negotiate the rules of engagement between the military and the media...Now is the time to resist the propaganda the Pentagon produces and live up to our obligation to question authority..."
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The War Is Over, The Struggle is Won. Or Not.
These days, some of the victims of the economic meltdown are getting pretty slim press coverage: progressive grassroots organizations that depend on donations from like-minded but now increasingly broke citizens. On Friday, Michael McPhearson, executive director of Veterans for Peace, sent out an urgent plea on behalf of United For Peace and Justice, a national coalition of over 1,400 anti-war and social justice groups, noting that, "The economic crisis is at our front door." "Do you believe...that this is a time of no war and no U.S. troops in foreign lands?" he asked, "...that the ties between militarism and economic deprivation are not real and inflaming the crisis at home right now?" If not, he said, UFPJ "needs your help" to do its still-vital work. Priorities, people. For more, go here
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Thursday, February 5, 2009
ACLU: Hope is Flickering.
In a new press release titled "Obama Endorses Bush Secrecy On Torture And Rendition" the ACLU lambastes Obama: "Hope is flickering. The Obama administration’s position is not change. It is more of the same."
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Oh Please God, PIease, Are You Listening Just This Once?
In an interview this week, former Vice-President Dick Cheney said November's rout of Republicans will help "clean out a lot of the old underbrush – that's probably me, this time around." Oh, and God? One more thing? How's about some long prison time, too?
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Money Talks, And Sometimes Bites, A Little
Despite or perhaps because of his billions, Microsoft founder Bill Gates is still trying to do good in creative, pragmatic ways – in this case, to halt the spread of malaria in Third World countries. At a posh California technology conference yesterday, Gates unleashed a jarful of mosquitoes to prod his affluent audience with the no-brainer that, "There is no reason only poor people should be infected." Of course, what he should have said is that there's no good reason, no morally or politically palatable reason. But still.
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A Small, Good Thing, With Apologies to Raymond Carver
A modest but important note to the refreshingly frank assessment by President Obama in the Tom Daschle fiasco that, "I screwed up." Obama didn't say, "Mistakes were made," the favorite dodge of errant leaders who hope the passive verb somehow thrusts the burden of the crime to an amorphous, distant other. He said, "I screwed up." It's a distinction that E.B. White would love; the rest of us can at least acknowledge that it matters, and it's a start toward accountability.
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Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Not Change: Is Obama's Rightwing Pick for Commerce Secretary Corrupt Too?
From Mark Nickolas' excellent blog : Yesterday, President Obama nominated Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) as his Commerce secretary. Many Democrats and some Republicans aren't thrilled by the pick. For Democrats, Gregg's record in the Senate shows a strong conservative philosophy that is destined to clash with labor and side with big business... There is another very good reason to be concerned about Obama's decision to bring Gregg into his administration. That involves questions about his actions as a Senate appropriations chairman in 2005 that involve some of his homeland security related donors.
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Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Next Up For the Kids: Their Own Little Guantanamo Play Set. Tasers Optional.
From the Surreal Adventures in Capitalism Department comes Playmobil's Security Check Point ($62), where kids can learn about racial profiling, metal detectors, full-body searches, questionable abridgments of civil rights and other pleasures of our so-called war on terror. This toy is real. The customer reviews, a collective, hilarious holler of protest, are the best part. Read all about it here
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