Monday, April 25, 2005

Mag highlight: In These Times

In These Times is a biweekly magazine out of Chicago (it's a national magazine). "James Weinstein is the founding editor and publisher of In These Times." That's from the dusk jacket of The Long Detour: The History and Future of the American Left which is a book worth reading and one that came out in paperback in October of 2004 (I saw that at Powell's when I looked for a link).

In These Times is a strong publication (disclosure, I subscribe) that addresses a variety of issues from a left perspective. I love The Nation and The Progressive (and a host of other magazines) and I love In These Times. The Progressive and The Nation cover labor, but labor is one of the chief concerns with In These Times. If The Nation speaks to my mind and The Progressive to my soul, I'd have to say In These Times speaks to my heart. (And is that not the worst sentence ever to appear on this site? Blame it on Gina who wanted personal opinions on what a magazine meant to me.)

I think you'll find much of value in all three. And if you're able to afford all three, subscribe to all three. If you have a good local library, hopefully you'll be able to read all three. In These Times differs from the other two in that all of its articles are available online to everyone.

Two columnists that I look forward to reading from In These Times are Susan J. Douglas and Salim Muwakkil. When both are in the same issue, I'm thrilled.

In the latest issue Salim Muwakki's column is entitled "The GOP's Quest for Color." From that column (which is the first of a two-parter -- or of at least a two-parter):

Republicans now see the Bush administration's "faith-based initiatives" as a new opportunity to wedge the party into the black community. Because of African Americans' unique history, the church has become the community's dominant institution and the church's religious values have always encouraged a kind of cultural conservatism.
Although those values share much with those of the religious right and conservative Republicans, black voters have shied away from GOP candidates. The primary reason for this disjuncture is the right-wing's racist tradition. Republicans think this sordid history is old news to most black voters and that the time may be ripe to exploit common cultural ties.

Susan J. Douglas' column is entitled "Fairness Now." From that column:

Critics argue that the Fairness Doctrine was confusing to stations and citizens alike, and that it was expensive and time-consuming to enforce. Maybe so. But its demise has been a disaster. Of greatest concern to most of us is, of course, the onslaught of conservative opinion, particularly on the radio, that remains unanswered and unchallenged. Right-wing evangelical broadcasting has metastasized, vilifying their favorite demons without any fear of contradiction or response. It is hardly surprising that Rush Limbaugh opposes the Fairness Doctrine on a regular basis--where would he be without its elimination?
Public affairs and news programming have also been crippled by the death of the Doctrine. According to a study by the Benton Foundation, as reported by Steve Rendall in Extra!, 25 percent of broadcast stations no longer offer any local news or public affairs programming.

[We linked to Steve Rendall's "The Fairness Doctrine" earlier this month but in case anyone missed it, the link's been provided again.]

You also have David Sirota (who's blog we need to link to as a permalink). He has a column in this issue entitled "Fear, Loathing and the GOP" (which I know Ty & Jess from The Third Estate Sunday Review will love):

Case in point is scandal-plagued House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who shows more and more of his frightening colors every day. In a span of two weeks last month, he showed just how open the Republican Party is to the most extreme and thuggish tactics.
Take his antics in the tragic Terri Schiavo case. After injecting himself into what should have been a private family matter, DeLay saw polls that showed an overwhelming majority of Americans opposed what he was doing. Instead of backing down, he dug in. Instead of acknowledging the public’s sentiment, he proclaimed there was a national "syndicate" conspiring "to destroy everything we believe in." Paranoia, anyone?

The APPALL-O-METER is a regular feature (and one Janeane Garofalo noted last week on The Majority Report). And apparently that's not a feature that's available online. It's a third of the page each issue, with an illustration, that comments on stories they may "appall" obviously.

This issue's theme is the media. There's much to praise in it but Gina and Dallas have both already written in to say that I'd better not give a pass to one feature. "It requires a comment, not one of your Oprah moments!" Gina informs me.

That's the last article I read today and since the In These Times review is overdue, if fate had worked differently, I could just say I hadn't read the piece.

The piece that has them upset is Jameison Foser's "Five Ways to Combat Conservative Media."
These may be Foser's five ways (and possibly Media Matters, Foser's a senior advisor there), but no, these are not five ways for The Common Ills.

"Stop talking about bias" advises rule one. In fairness, Foser's point may be that we cannot know the motives of others. (Don't explode Gina, I'm not leaving it at that.) That said, Foser's piece, rightly or wrongly, is read by Dallas and Gina as "Here's what we will do." And no, it's not what we will do here.

Write in your own voice. How many times have I typed that or speak in your own voice at this site? Too many times to count.

So, yes, I disgaree with that completely. We told bias on NPR here. We tattled. (Victoria Nuland, works for Cheney, is married to Robert Kagan whom NPR's Morning Edition brings on to evaluate John Kerry's remarks right before the election -- and NPR doesn't inform you of it.)
We'll tattle again.

At this site, we try to avoid telling others what to write about, speak about, blog about or how.
People need to speak in their own voices.

And this piece is frustrating. Presumably, if it had been written (and Foser may have intended it to be read as such) as "What we do at Media Matters," there would be no problem with the piece. But the last thing the left needs is someone appointing themselves the "key master." We've already got "gate keepers." (A friend asked me to work a quote from Ghostbusters into the roundtable and I forgot it. Here's the quote, "I'm the gatekeeper" and "Are you the key master?" -- that may be one line and not two. I haven't seen any of the Ghostbusters films.)

Foser needs to do what he believes in. If this is what he believes in, more power to him. But we don't need to be told how to talk or what to say.

Don't say bias? Gwyn Ifel (I'm sure that's mispelled and I frankly don't care) was solemn face tonight on the NewsHour (PBS) with the Democratic senator but she beamed a pretty smile at a "witty" remark by a Republican senator according to nine e-mails that have already come in.
Had I seen it (I didn't) and wanted to write about it, I think I'd be asking if Condi's gal-pal and dinner-mate (home cooked meals, no less) is capable of objectivity based on her personal life and her past performances on Washington Week. (One of my favorite groaners was when GI messed up the Bill of Rights. A guest tried to correct her on it and she dismissed it as unimportant.)

Or how about Gloria Borger, substituting for Ifel after the announcement was made that John Edwards would be Kerry's running mate? What was up with not just her jab at Kerry as a "flip-flopper" but that look she gives? I hadn't seen that until early Sunday morning when Ava and I were reviewing our notes for the TV review we were writing and I popped in the videotape of the show to check our quotes. I tape whatever we review and keep the program taped for a week in case an e-mail comes in questioning a line quoted or a detail so I can advise the person as to where the incident we're remarking on is in the episode.

So we're done with that review and going through the New York Times to find somethings to point out (after e-mailers were already asking, members e-mailing to this site, "Where is the news?") and the videotape is playing. I'd never seen the episode (and may have been taping for some other reason, the full PBS line up from that night was on the tape after The Simple Life).
I saw that and thought, "What was that!"

She interrupts the guest (some guy, I'm forgetting whom, he wasn't from National Journal, the NJ guest was a woman, I think he was from The Wall St. Journal) to toss out her little "flip-flop" joke and then, before the camera goes back to the man, she's making the weirdest face (to a panelist who's offscreen) that I've ever seen. There's the little smirk on her face, but there's also the head jerk that she does right before the camera cuts away.

I had to put aside the paper and rewind to make sure I'd seen what I thought I saw. I watched it four times. What is she doing?

Or how about Norah O'Donnel's private party thrown by a former Cheney staffer? What was up with that? "Welcome to D.C., Norah!" Does anyone else wonder if O'Donnell's tendancy to say "dem-o-CRAT" on air on Today (something Today got e-mails about) last year was something other than bias? It may have been something other than bias but Norah O'Donnell left herself open to charges of bias by electing to attend a party (in her honor) at the private residence of a former Cheney staffer.

So we'll bring up bias when we think it's worth asking. And Foser doesn't have to if he's saying he doesn't want to.

Foser's entitled to say whatever he wants, but when he appears to be attempting to hand down commandments, yes, we will blow off that advice. We don't need more gatekeepers, the country has quite enough as it is.

And the reason for not claiming bias, offered by Foser, is that (or one section of his reasoning)
reporters may be flooded with contacts from Republicans. So therefore, in his thinking, it's not bias if there articles rely more on that, it's just them responding to having all that information shoved on them. (Foser says it may be "lazy" on the reporters part.) I don't buy that. Because if we use Gloria Steinem's parallel therapy here and replace the terms with two others, white and African-American, the advice reads, don't call a reporter biased because s/he may just have more access to whites. Well that is bias if you're writing about race and you're not bothering to develop resources from both sides. That is bias. And it's bias and lazy reporting if you do that with regard to Republicans and Democrats. (I haven't called anyone "racist" or "party-ist," I have stated it's an example of bias.)

So I disagree. He's entitled to his opinion and more power to him. He may be right. I may be wrong. But no, we don't operate under that commandment here and we won't.

We don't need anyone telling us how to be authentic, we just need to speak in our own voices here and that's what we do. And the problem, for me, with anyone attempting to play gatekeeper is that they decide. It may be about bias, it may be about something else. Currently, some Dem gatekeepers are trying to tell us that choice isn't a really a big issue anymore. Or that the party needs to move away from its support for GLBT rights.

Foser's not suggesting the party move away from GLBT rights or choice. But when you allow gatekeeping, you allow it. And we don't stand for it here. I'll add one more time that Foser may be attempting to say what Media Matters stands for and, if so, that's perfectly fine. His org can speak in whatever voice is their own. But if he's trying to hand down guidelines, the simple fact of the matter is, this community didn't ask him for them and we say "Thank you, but no thank you."

The reason the GOP may be in trouble now is because there on-point message has resulted in a large number of Republicans feeling left out. (As Randi Rhodes like to say on this topic, "You're party has left you.") The last thing the left needs is to emulate the very thing that may bring the GOP down. And there is a lot of anger on the left about the move (or perceived move) by some away from the issue of the occupation. The left isn't in the mood for more gatekeepers.

So hopefully that issue can now be considered addressed and Gina doesn't feel I went into an "Oprah moment." (Dallas had comments but I'm not sure they were meant to be shared. If they were intended to be shared with the community, note that and they'll be posted.)

Jessica Clark and Tracy Van Slke's "Making Connections: Why is the news so bad? What can progressives do to fix it?" which is worth reading and the chart on page eighteen is available online by clicking on the link for the article. From the article:

Decades-old journalistic standards of "objectivity"--and even its less-learned cousin, "balance"--are on the ropes. Paid political operatives posing as bloggers are taking down journalists like Dan Rather, while progressive "citizen bloggers" expose faux-reporters like Jeff Gannon. (See "The Blogosphere: Insiders vs. Outsiders,") The federal government is filling the airwaves with "video news releases" and hired pundits like Armstrong Williams. (See "The GOP’s Quest for Color,") Meanwhile, a study by the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey revealed that young people who regularly watch "The Daily Show" are "more likely to answer questions about politics correctly than those who don't."
With this issue of In These Times, we explore the contours of the current media landscape, map the contested territory, and chart the dissimilar conservative and progressive media strategies.

An article in the issue that I felt the community would be especially interested in was Kari Lydersen's "The Ousting of Obrador: Legal shenanignas plague popular Mexican presidential candidate." Excerpt from that concise article:

In 2001, developers of upscale properties in the El Encino neighborhood of Mexico City obtained a court injunction demanding the city government stop building a road skirting their development. They allege that Obrador failed to halt construction immediately; Obrador says he didn't know of the order until later. Once construction stopped, the developers also allege that the city government blocked access to their land by leaving construction equipment at the site, and asked that contempt of court charges be filed against Obrador and his administration.
Both parties have led the campaign to strip Obrador of his official immunity from prosecution (known as the fuero) so that he can be prosecuted on contempt-of-court charges stemming from the dispute.

With the success of the desafuero (as the governmental effort to clear the way for Obrador's prosecution is known), he could face eight years in prison. More significantly for his candidacy, under Mexican law he cannot run for office if facing criminal charges.

I'd also recommend Kenneth Rapoza's "IMF on the Ropes in Brazil: Brazil’s decision to cut some ties with the Fund is indicative of changing times in Latin America:"

The IMF has changed its position in Latin America out of necessity: The IMF probably needs Latin America more than it needs the IMF. Latin American leaders are starting to recognize that they can have a voice within these institutions. As a result, the IMF responded positively to Brazil’s decision, as did U.S. Treasury Secretary John T. Snow. Iglesias calls Argentina's recently approved plan to pay just 76 percent of its debt, "reasonable." With that in mind, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Nestor Kirchner of Argentina and Lula agreed to sign an accord in Uruguay on March 2 to negotiate their foreign debt as a bloc, rather than individually.
The IMF knows changes are afoot in Latin America. Former IMF Executive Director Vijay L. Kelkar wrote in the March issue of the IMF's magazine, Finance & Development, "It is time for the IMF to adapt to present needs [and] ... promote globalization that would benefit all, not just one particular region or group of countries. A new debate in favor of regional monetary arrangements has emerged."
Kelkar is aware that competing capitalisms are changing the nature of the world's financial system. Argentina's foreign minister, Rafael Bielsa, put it this way in the Argentine press about his region's pressures to change the Fund: "There's a rebellion on the farm. The IMF is no longer a corral, and the little animals are beginning to escape."

Again, I haven't read the entire issue. I'm at the half-way mark. But I hope that convey's a sense of what's in this issue. And, judging by past e-mails, Foser's article will not go over well. But that's one article. (And, sorry Gina, in fairness he may be speaking of what they do at Media Matters. There's no intro to the piece, it starts with the list. If you gave the piece another headline, e.g. "Here's what we do at Media Matters," I don't think anyone would have a problem with. I doubt Foser wroter the headline but I could be wrong. Oh, Gina wanted to be quoted with this: "As an adult and a feminist, I don't need a Daddy telling me what to do.")

If you've read and love The Nation and/or The Progressive pick up In These Times or visit it online and see if you don't find something that speaks to you. If either magazine hasn't spoken to, give In These Times a try. Everything won't speak to everyone. But hopefully, as we go along, everyone's finding some resources that speak to them. And the answer is always more voices, not less. (My opinion.)

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