Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Magazine spotlight: Mother Jones

Two stories to pay attention to in the latest Mother Jones.

1) "Left, Right & Wrong" by Garret Keizer. Is a piece that will make you think. You may or may not agree with it. And it's one person's view. But it's worth reading. The link takes you to an excerpt at Mother Jones' web site. Here's the thing that I felt most community members would not their heads in agreement with:

Convention wisdom will claim that what I'm talking about is hopelessly outdated, regressive rather than progressive, as if the historical dreams of humanity were so many software programs that cease to function whenever some Newsweek pundit declares them obsolete. Conventional wisdom will also claim that a recovery of the original vision of the left is politically unrealistic. That is bunk and for two reasons.
The first is that it relegates the left to its assigned role in the morality play of the right. If the prevailing left-liberal response to the 2004 elction is yet another change of position, another revisionist move twoard centrist policies, we will have done nothing more than to demonstrate that our theocratic adversaries on the right are right: namely, that the secularist tradition of democratic liberalism lacks a moral core. Democrats seem prepared to subordinate every value to that of winning, failing to realize that they can never win -- especially in a time of internation terror and domestic disarray -- until they subordinate winning to conviction. This is where jabs at George W. Bush's intellect prove to be every bit as lame as their target. Nobody thinks Bush has a brain. They think he has a backbone.
The second problem with the case for "political realism" is that it's often advanced by people with a very limited experience of reality. I don't live in a pollster's PowerBook; I live on the road.

Again, it's a thought piece and may make you think even if you disagree with some points.

2) The second story is "From Bagram to Abu Ghraib" by Emily Bazelon. This article is available in full online (the first article you can only read an excerpt of online and will need to
look to the print edition to read that story). From that article (available in full online):

By the summer and fall of 2003, more and more detainees were coming forward to complain about abuse in U.S. custody. In September 2003, a former Afghan police colonel told the Afghan human rights commission that he had been sexually abused while being detained at Bagram, Gardez, and Kandahar for a total of 40 days. Another former detainee named Abdurahman Khadr, who was held at Bagram in March 2003, later testified in a Canadian federal court that U.S. soldiers “got me naked and they were taking pictures of my face and my private parts--just constantly taking pictures of my private parts.” Khadr also said that he’d seen other prisoners hung from a wall by their shackles for as long as four days. Two other detainees, Saif-ur Rahman and Abdul Qayyum, told the Associated Press that they had been deprived of sleep, forced to stand for long periods, and taunted by female soldiers during the fall and winter of 2002.
The Army report on the deaths of Dilawar and Habibullah documented similar practices. The investigators found that members of the Cincinnati-based 377th Military Police Company, which was based at Bagram along with the 519th, slammed prisoners into walls, twisted their handcuffs, shackled a detainee's arms to the ceiling, and forced water into another detainee’s mouth “until he could not breathe.” Finally, last June, a grand jury in North Carolina indicted a private CIA contractor, David Passaro, in connection with the death of an Afghan man who had voluntarily surrendered to U.S. troops at another base in Afghanistan; the man had been savagely beaten with a flashlight.

The second article covers a lot of ground and has a strong perspective as it pulls various isolated reporting together to show the pattern. In a perfect world, it would win an award for magazine reporting.

There's more in the issue but the Editor's Note is what has gotten the most complaints (again). Why? The point is that people should spend their money wisely on their own surroundings, on their donations, on their activism. No one disagrees with that notion. But 17 members e-mailed complaining about the choice the editors made to illustrate that point. Explaining that a house can built by Habitat for Humanity for $47,000, they go after/take a slam at (Erika, Joyce) people who spent $57,000 on a kitchen remodel.

The 17 members who e-mailed all felt that was a little sexist (there are women who are editors at Mothers Jones -- that doesn't mean they can't be sexist, I just want to throw that out for the record). The members noted that the kitchen is the gathering place, it is where the most basic and most intense conversations take place and they wonder why a room in a house traditionally seen as female (Maggie: "One of the few!") was selected to be slammed.

Lynda: Don't tell me that we're looking at a shack that's falling down everywhere except in that remodeled $57,000 kitchen! They could have addressed a den, a living room, a playroom, pool, squash or tennis court, bedroom, nursery or whatever. They went after the kitchen and I think that's sexist. If they had a reason for picking it, they didn't explain it. So it appears sexist to me. Slamming the room that's traditionally associated with women which also happens to be the room where the most work is done in many households. You cook there, you eat there, you do dishes there. I think the editors live in a far different world than I do and a far different one than [Garret] Keizer discusses in his article because I think the people in his article would not be appalled by a kitchen because they'd think of it in relation to their family. Now a TV room would appall much more because, unlike a kitchen, it's not a necessity for most families. It's the hearth of the home and I think most people will hear that figure and think, "Wow, if only . . ." which isn't the point of the editorial -- they're trying to appall you. They need to know their audience better.

Personally, I regret that the editor's note was ever pointed out to me. I've always skipped it until the last two issues (when members pointed it out) and never had a problem with the issue. Maybe they'll work a little harder on them? The rest of the issue is strong.
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