Monday, February 07, 2005

Magazine Report: The Progressive, In These Times, The Nation, Mother Jones, Spin and Left Turn

The long promised Magazine Report.

The Progressive - February, 2005

For starters, there's "Comment Bring the Troops Home" -- a commentary we highlighted earlier and one you won't see in the Times (which was the point of an editorial in The Third Estate Sunday Review). Also available online is "Next Stop, Tehran? Chris Toensing" by Chris Toensing and an interview with Terry Tempest Williams (author and activist) by David Kupfer. From that interview:

Q: Where are we in history?
: This is an incredibly creative time. It is a difficult time. It is a disparaging time. A time of cultural and global transitions based on the realization that the Earth cannot support nonsustainable practices anymore. I believe capitalism will eventually be replaced by a communitarian ethic where the rights and care of all beings will be taken into consideration, not just the greed of a corporate few. Thomas Berry calls this time the Ecozoic Era, a time when we recognize the imperative of caring for the planet as a means of compassionate survival. We do not know what the outcome is going to be, but we have an opportunity to make these kinds of creative and imaginative leaps of thought and actions both locally and globally. This is completely antithetical to the direction George W. Bush is leading this nation. I do trust that the open space of democracy is ultimately the open space of our hearts and that we can follow our own leadership that carries a long-term view way beyond "four more years."

To highlight one piece not available online, "The Tragedy of Gary Webb" is a strong essay by Dan Simon (founder of Seven Stories Press). On Webb's exclusive for The Mercury News ("a network of collusion in the 1980s that joined together the crack cocaine explosion, the Contras and the CIA):

The mainstream print media was ominously silent until October and November 1996, when The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times all finally picked up the story. But instead of launching their own investigations into whether the CIA had shielded drug traffickers, these papers went after Gary's reporting, although they "could not find a single significant factual error," as Gary's then-editor at The Mercury News, Jerry Ceppos, would write in an internal memo. But after that, the series was described frequently as "discredited." Soon the story and Gary himself were spoiled goods. Gary's editor switched sides and penned and apologia distancing the paper from the series. Gary was forced out of his job, even though the body of evidence supporting Gary's account was actually growing.

If you can get ahold of the print edition (store or library), please check out Matthew Rothschild's book review in this issue.

In These Times -- February 14, 2005

In this issue, In These Times is focusing on labor for a number of articles. They are available online. I'll recommend those but also note Bernie Sanders (U.S. House Rep.) has a piece entitled "Ground Control to Mr. Bush." And I'll spotlight these two pieces.

Susan J. Douglas "is a professor of communications at the University of Michigan and author of Where the Girls Are Growing up Female with the Mass Media." And she's also a very strong commentator. From "Tsunami Reveals News Gap:"

The Guardian, unlike our own august news outlets, quickly reminded its readers that the U.S. government has spent $148 billion on the invasion of Iraq, and even when Bush the Grinch was forced to up the aid pledge to $350 million, that was the equivalent of one and a half day’s worth of spending in Iraq.
Of course, mean-spirited isolationism and mass ignorance are Team Bush’s ultimate goals. This is the administration that has succeeded in cutting Pell Grants for lower-income college kids—they want people to be uneducated, credulous and uninformed. That’s how they get away with selling everything from WMD in Iraq to a fake crisis in Social Security. Geographic ignorance is absolutely crucial to their success.
But for how much longer will the news media help them out? Coverage of international news on the networks has declined precipitously since the mid-’80s, from nearly 3800 minutes in 1989 to just over 1800 minutes in 1996 at ABC (the leader) and from 3350 minutes to 1175 minutes at NBC. In 1988, ABC featured 1158 foreign bureau reports; by 1996, that was down to 577 reports. Meanwhile, publications like The Economist and the Financial Times are enjoying increased circulation among business elites who need and want to know about international affairs.

"Bush's Death Squad" by Robert Parry deals with what possibly Cokie Roberts might feel is the revival of one the "great lessons" of Reagan's terms in office:

As a centerpiece of this tougher strategy to pacify Iraq, Bush is contemplating the adoption of the brutal practices that were used to suppress leftist peasant uprisings in Central America in the ’80s. The Pentagon is “intensively debating” a new policy for Iraq called the “Salvador option,” Newsweek magazine reported on January 9.
The strategy is named after the Reagan-Bush administration’s “still-secret strategy” of supporting El Salvador’s right-wing security forces, which operated clandestine “death squads” to eliminate both leftist guerrillas and their civilian sympathizers, Newsweek reported. “Many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success—despite the deaths of innocent civilians,” Newsweek wrote.
The magazine also noted that a number of Bush administration officials were leading figures in the Central American operations of the ’80s, such as John Negroponte, who was then U.S. ambassador to Honduras and is now U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

There are numberous articles from this issue online, so please use the link and browse. (My choices might not be your choices. That goes for all the magazines in this "report" -- including Mother Jones. But with In These Times, besides the strong labor stories, they have an informative story on Mad Cow Disease, an interesting first person account in "Camel Nights" and "Gay Matrimony: Get Used to It." Any of those three could easily have been highligted.

The Nation -- February 7, 2005

We've already highlighted Katha Pollitt's "Jesus to the Rescue?" (last week).

There's a great deal here, but not all of it is available. I know that merely seeing Katrina vanden Heuvel's name will be enough to make many click to read "Babushkas vs. Putin" (and please click, because it's a great commentary), so I'll choose two other articles to highlight.

Jonathan Schell's "Letter From Ground Zero: What Is Wrong With Torture" focuses on the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on Alberto Gonzales:

The senators' language regarding torture reflected, with exceptions, the horror of the matter as dimly as their flowery praise of one another. None, it is true, went as far as to suggest that restrictions on the abuse of prisoners were "unilateral disarmament," as a recent Wall Street Journal editorial did. Most of the senatorial defenders of Gonzales's record concentrated on denying his responsibility for one or another of the damning memos. More striking were the arguments against torture by those skeptical of the nomination. Two dominated. One was that torture hurts the image of the United States in the world. In the words of Senator Lindsey Graham, "I can tell you that it is a club that our enemies use, and we need to take that club out of their hand." Or in the words of Senator Herb Kohl, "winning the hearts and minds of the Arab world is vital to our success in the war on terror," and "Photographs that have come out of Abu Ghraib have undoubtedly hurt those efforts." The second argument was that enemy forces would torture US forces in retaliation. In Biden's words, "This is about the safety and security of American forces." Even Gonzales, who declined at every opportunity to repudiate the policies that had led to the torture, was ready to agree that Abu Ghraib had harmed the image of the United States.

Sharon Lerner's "Post-Roe Postcards" is also an important read, documenting the continued chipping away at Roe on the state level:. Here are the first three paragraphs of the article:

As you read this piece about abortion in Mississippi thirty-two years after the right to have an abortion was affirmed by the Supreme Court, the government of Mississippi is marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade in another way. Governor Haley Barbour has issued an official proclamation declaring the seven days leading up to the anniversary "a week of prayer regarding the sanctity of human life." Barbour also authorized the placement of tiny white crosses on the lawn of the state Capitol "in memory of the unborn children who die each day in America," according to the decree. The crosses have been planted for the past three years, though this year Barbour will be at President Bush's inauguration during the official anniversary event, and the display was moved to a nearby churchyard. Barbour is a Republican, but it should be noted that the tradition of transforming the Capitol lawn into a symbolic mini-graveyard was begun by the previous governor of Mississippi, who was a Democrat.
With eight of nine US Supreme Court Justices over 65 and one seriously ill with cancer, much of the country is understandably focused on the possibility that their soon-to-be-appointed replacements will overturn the decision upholding the right to abortion. But in Mississippi, in many ways, Roe has already fallen. Abortion is legal here, of course, as it must be throughout the country while the landmark ruling stands. Yet, for many women, the ability to terminate a pregnancy is out of reach, buried under state laws that make the process unnecessarily difficult, discouraged by a sense of shame enforced by practically every public authority, and inaccessible for many who lack money to pay for it.
How Mississippi all but outlawed abortion is a story people on both sides of the abortion debate are still struggling to understand. Few would expect this famously conservative Southern state to be prochoice. And Texas, Louisiana and a few other states have been competing for the dubious distinction of being the worst place to be if you want or need to end a pregnancy. But Mississippi has gone further in its hostility to abortion even than other Bible Belt states. A small, mostly rural population and the absence of local prochoice organizations have helped turn Mississippi into the perfect laboratory for antiabortion strategists.

I'll also note that Alexander Cockburn's articles in the print edition of The Nation are available at CounterPunch. And let me repeat, for this last time, please use the links because the stories I've highlighted are personal choices. You might find something that speaks to you more. I've tried to highlight well written pieces (or well photographed ones, in the case of Mother Jones) that deal with issues that pop up in your e-mails. I could have judged wrong (wouldn't be the first time and wouldn't be the last time). (And if you check the links and find something you wanted highlighted from the issue that I missed, e-mail the site at

Mother Jones -- February 2005

When I mentioned, in passing, that I'd try to include this, eight e-mails came in complaining about the "Editor's Note." Honestly, that's a feature I usually skip in Mother Jones and all I had read was Katherine Turman's interview with Krist Novoselic.

Here's a portion of the "Editor's Note," the first two paragraphs:

In the weeks after Election Day, the staff of Mother Jones was bombarded by phone calls and emails from people insisting that it could not be true that George W. Bush had been reelected. This sentiment was not just lingering resentment over the 2000 debacle, nor simply the refusal of blue voters to understand why any American would cast a vote for a president who’d led us into a misguided war and the depths of deficit. Rather, for most of those who contacted us, angry, suspicious, and devastated, the source of their conviction was that they had seen, with their own eyes, the enormous energy, dedication, and devotion that amassed to defeat Bush in the final months of the campaign. But I was there, they’d say. I went to Nevada / Ohio / Florida / Pennsylvania -- I saw the volunteers pouring in, I saw the predominance of Kerry-Edwards signs and supporters. I just can’t believe we lost.
Some bloggers were quick to feed the notion that if Bush had come out on top, it must be due to a conspiracy of state registrars and voting-machine manufacturers. The truth is somewhat harder to accept: Bush won. Not by a lot, but he won.

The editors are allowed to write any statement they wish to. I was asked repeatedly how I could defend their editorial. That's how. And that's all I'll defend about it. I'm not on the Mother Jones payroll. (I don't even subscribe. Which isn't a slap at Mother Jones but I'm trying to stagger my subscriptions so they don't all come due in the fall -- and I've repeatedly put off subscribing to Mother Jones to donate to this or that cause/campaign.)

They have the right to say whatever they want in their "Editor's Note."

I don't think the facts we now know (and more may come out, keep checking Ron's Why Are We Back In Iraq? for that) necessarily are reflected in their statement but I have no idea when the magazine went to press.

Kara: "This is a David-Corn-end-of-story-move-along piece of bullsh*t."

It does seem rather Clarissa Explains It All, agreed. And the slap at bloggers (noted by Kara and six others of the eight who complained via e-mail) seems unnecessary and, frankly, uncalled for from a magazine that supports investigative journalism. Whether or not they agree with the bloggers' conclusions (which they apparently do not), I would have thought they'd be impressed with the amount of work done.

For Mother Jones of all magazines to do a note from the editors that suggests there's nothing to look into (when I'm not really convinced that they looked into the story on their own -- perhaps the writings of Tommy Zeller, from the New York Times, were what they relied on?) when I'm sure they themselves have heard that repeatedly, strikes me as strange.

But move away from the slap at bloggers (I'm not trying to minimize that) and focus on the first paragraph because their readers have been writing them about the election, imploring them to look into it. If they did so, they didn't do it in print because I haven't missed an issue. Reviewing their previous "Editor's Note", I'm guessing (and I could be wrong) that was written before election day, in which case, this would be the first "Editor's Note" since the election. Point, readers wrote and called them about this and their response, their way of addressing it, is to dismiss it in an editorial note.

All eight of you were offended by the attitude towards bloggers and, again, I'm not trying to minimize your feelings or their statement, but I'm trying to draw attention to the fact that the magazine is dismissing their base. Bloggers may or may not read Mother Jones, but people who do bothered to contact them and with a blond head toss, they Clarissa Dismiss It All. That may be why, unlike with Katrina vanden Heuvel in The Nation and Matthew Rothschild in The Progressive, I don't usually read the "Editors Note" in Mother Jones. It's usually just a laundry list of what's in the magazine.

I think that says all that needs to be said about the "Editor's Note."

Moving on to the issue itself.

Of the features offered online, I'd recommend the photo essay "Coming Home." It's very powerful and they deserve credit for running it. And?

That's about it. Todd Gitlin's been boring and dull -- trapped in his early sixties mind-set for eternity. At the New York Times, public editor Daniel Okrent gave over half of a column to Gitlin who had nothing to say that hasn't been said for years. (Disclosure, I've met Gitlin several times. I've never been impressed with him. And that's putting it mildly.)

Gitlin had an article in the last issue and, as two letters to the editor in this issue note, he's got nothing to say that hasn't been said already by others. And said better.

Gitlin's not someone who's ever spoken to me. (In person, he's like the cranky uncle who wants to explain to you over and over how it went down when he was a teenager. And you're listening to his rants and thinking, "But, I'm not a teenager now and haven't been for several years. Can we talk about something pertinent to today?") He always goes to great pains to present himself as objective (which is his right) but at crunch time, he tends to go ballistic. Anything that doesn't fit in (my opinion) with his "the way things were is the way things are" framework (early sixties) is "identity politics." (Race, gender, sexual orientation, you name it, it's all just "identity politics.")

Gitlin's good at flicking spitballs towards Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn when they aren't present -- possibly he might be able to debate them without turning into his usual basket case, I doubt it -- but he cannot hold it together when he's debating a woman. He's never been able to and that was proven yet again last year when he had his mini-meltdown opposite Naomi Klein on Democracy Now!: Naomi Klein vs. Todd Gitlin: A Debate on Resistance and the RNC (you can listen, watch or read).

Klein not only can hold her own against Gitlin's self-important tone (he enjoys using that when he's in brow-beating mode -- my opinion), she also managed to land on his weakness. When she tells him she wasn't even born in 1968, Gitlin's facing not only a strong woman, but also his own advancing age, and he goes into meltdown.

I want to be clear that this isn't some anti-sixties hatred on my part. I think the sixties were a wonderful time of activism and exploration. I think strong activists came out of that period and that some of them (Gloria Steinem, Tom Hayden, Howard Zinn, etc.) have continued to do incredible work. Gitlin? He continues to recycle his "One Moment in Time" in repeated books. But, having alluded to Whitney Houston, let's turn to Janet Jackson, "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" If he didn't notice it in his early adult formative years, it doesn't exist for him.

I always think of Gitlin whenever I hear "Brownsville Girl" (written by Bob Dylan and Sam Shepard). Specifically when Bob Dylan sings the line:

Oh if there's an original thought out there, I could use it right now.

Gitlin doesn't speak to me (and that may be a result of having encountered him). So I'll never highlight him at this site (Kara voiced concern about that). If a reader chooses to highlight him, we'll highlight him as a voice that speaks to ____.

But personally, I don't go in for "Reader's Digest" nostalgia/Time-Life CD collections of the "no, no, you can't protest, remember 1968!"

That's really all I have to say about this issue of Mother Jones.

(Again, seriously, if some member out there feels Todd Gitlin speaks to them, highlight him. Even this article. I'm not the final word on Gitlin. I don't care for him, I don't like him. But I'll just assume you're a better person -- and wiser -- than I am if you can find some good in his writing. And we will highlight your link. That includes if you want to highlight each piece he publishes from now to infinity. You're also welcome to make a case for Gitlin -- going into as much detail as you'd like. I won't add my own snide remarks, I'll just post it as its own entry.
There are people who enjoy his writing. If you're one of them, the e-mail address is

I want to highlight an article in Spin ( February, 2005). But first, for Cedric, there's a review of Eminem's new album in the review section. There's also a good article on Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) by Jon Dolan (it's entitled "The Only Living Boy in New York"). It's not available online but I know two of you named Bright Eyes as having done your favorite song, so I'll do an excerpt here.

Did you write most of the music before the 2004 presidential campaign heated up?
We recorded the folk record in early February 2004. Everything was written in 2002 and 2003. Basically, ever since the 2000 election, electoral politics -- something I really didn't think about before -- marched right into my room and woke me up at night and was constantly broadcast into my senses. The conditions here and all around the world worsen each day, and I have no choice than to be affected by it. Usually when that happens, I have no course but to try to write about it or try to understand it through some creative pose.
. . .
What protest is "Old Soul Song (For the New World Order)" based on?
The Iraqi protest. It was my birthday: February 15, 2003. It was the last big protest before the war started. It was amazing because you felt very empowered and sort of hopeless at the same time. It's strange how that works.

Now for Left Turn (Feb/Mar 2005). First of all, thank you so much for suggesting this magazine, Sally. I'm really enjoying it. Second of all, I'm not finished with it yet.

Online, you'll find "Tip of the Iceberg:"

Yet the Pentagon continued to maintain the deception that these were largely foreign fighters funded by outsiders and that with enough force, the resistance can be broken. But the November assault on Falluja, supposedly the last isolated haven for the resistance, proved the Pentagon's predictions deadly wrong. As the former UN arms inspector Scott Ritter rightly described it, the US military confrontation with the Iraqi resistance is like fighting jello - you push it down in one spot, it erupts elsewhere with equal intensity. And that is precisely what happened: as the Marines were flattening Falluja to the ground, hundreds of resistance fighters overran Iraq's third largest city of Mosul, killing and dispersing its 4,000-member police force in the course of a day. That the resistance can move so easily from city to city and operate so brazenly suggests the fighters are merely the tip of the iceberg and enjoy wide support among the Iraqi population, which shares their rage against the US occupation. In this context, the heavy-handed policies of the US military only serve to turn previously passive supporters into active guerrilla fighters. The assault on Falluja which completely destroyed the city and emptied it of its 200,000-300,000 inhabitants will certainly swell the number of resistance sympathizers for years to come. If the Pentagon believed its own propaganda and most of the fighters were in fact not Iraqi, then the Falluja assault may very well have broken the back of the resistance, but even according to the US military, less than 5% of the guerrillas captured in Falluja turned out to be foreigners.

I'll also recommend "On the Rocks" which gives you three voices weighing in: Dahr Jamail, Phyllis Bennis and Juan Cole:

LT: Finally, what do you think the next step for the antiwar/occupation movement needs to be? Cole: The US tactic of constantly bombarding Iraqi cities to deal with a small number of guerrillas, producing large civilian casualties, must be protested head on.
Jamail: Full scale, coordinated nationwide non-violent civil disobedience until US policy in Iraq is radically altered. It has not been attempted yet, and none of the other tools to affect change have produced anything. Also, more serious efforts to have Mr. Bush and several members of his cabinet tried for war crimes.
Bennis: We have to recognize that our obligation as the US section of the global peace and anti-occupation movement is to work to pressure the US government in as many ways and as strongly as we can. We must be clear in our demand to end the occupation - which means bring the troops home. Now. We have to identify constituencies for unifying and broadening the still-disparate parts of our movement, particularly working with African-American community organizations and the faith-based church peace movements with the goal of building a broader and more unified movement. We have to identify what is weakening the US capacity to wage war - the rising human and economic costs of the war, escalating dissent among soldiers, and growing public opposition - and figure out how to build on those realities. That means working with and helping to support organizations like Military Families Speak Out and Iraq Veterans Against the War, strengthening and broadening the most representative coalitions like United for Peace and Justice, and working to embed our movement, our work, and ourselves into the very fabric of US life.

Read the full stories for both, check out the site. I think some of you, like me, will be thankful that Sally brought this magazine to our attention.

[Note: This post has been edited. Thanks to Kara for pointing out that I'd forgotten to provide a link for Robert Parry's article from In These Times and thanks to Ben for pointing out that the link for Seven Stories Press wasn't working. Both have been corrected.]