Saturday, May 28, 2005

Mag Report: The Progressive (June issue with heads up to Matthew Rothschild's "Stripping Rumsfeld and Bush of Impunity")

New issue of The Progressive arrived in the mail today so we'll do a highlight.

It's the June issue with an interesting illustration on the front cover. (I like the blue background, by the way. Makes the illustration stand out -- my opinion.)

In his Editor's Note (page four), Matthew Rothschild notes near the end:

When Saul Bellow died, I was struck by the hagiography that accompanied him graveside. We turned to Anne-Marie Cusac, our investigative reporter and a published poet, to assess Bellow's work judiciously.
I highly recommend her essay to you. It's right on the mark, and the trajectory is beautiful.

That's "Saul Bellow Reconsidered" and here's an excerpt:

I had an unfortunate introduction to Saul Bellow. In 1988, as a college senior, I took a contemporary novels course with one of my favorite professors, a discerning, fervent, word-loving Shakespeare expert.
The course had filled with friends, most of us young women, and I remember groups talking with passion at lunch about Italo Calvino, Iris Murdoch, and Gabriel García Márquez. Mr. Bellow had stiff competition that semester.
We had to wait for his latest novel, More Die of Heartbreak. The book was available only in hardcover, and on back order. The professor altered the syllabus because of the delay. When the book finally came in, so did the high expectations reserved for the long awaited.
Within days, More Die of Heartbreak led a friend of mine to approach some of us outside of class. She said that the book was unfair, that it was blaming Uncle Benn's troubles on women in general and on Matilda, the beauty he secretly marries, in particular. "Uncle Benn was a woman-battered man," says the narrator. Alerted, we read and criticized. We came to class ready to battle. My friend raised her hand. She pronounced the criticism that some reviewers of More Die of Heartbreak were also making: misogyny.
Bellow dealt with the criticism by saying that women would better understand his work. "A woman is more likely to see the truth of what I've said," he told the London Sunday Times.
Bellow's ideal woman reader hadn't enrolled in our class. The professor responded to the insurrection by agreeing with us. The novel, written more than ten years after Bellow received the Nobel Prize for Literature, was not his best, she said. We should read his early books.

That's the opening (and yes, we linked to it earlier this month).

Before Isaiah became our community illustrationist/comic (I'm not sure of the term he prefers), I usually skipped over illustrations but I'll note Troubletown by Lloyd Dangle on the letter page which is "Life In Post-Science America." It's very funny and Dangle's work can be found at

Pages six through ten are this month's Comment entitled "Energy Company Policy." Here's an excerpt of the first five paragraphs:

George Bush's idea of an energy policy is to dish out goodies to his buddies in the oil, gas, coal, and nuclear power industries, hold hands with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, and send the U.S. Army to Iraq. He pays lip service to energy independence but provides no way to get there. He slights conservation. He starves research into safe and renewable alternative energies. Meanwhile, he despoils our pristine places and contaminates our air and water.
The House energy bill, which the Administration shepherded through on April 15, reveals the Bush approach in all its shabby details. And his energy speech almost two weeks later, while more high-minded in its rhetoric, reinforces this retrograde path.

Bush has a seemingly unquenchable desire to dole out favors to the oil giants, which have amassed enormous profits as petroleum sells at $50 a barrel. In the first quarter alone, the four biggest companies--ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch/Shell, BP, and Chevron-Texaco--earned $97 billion in profits combined. Yet the House rewarded energy companies with at least $12 billion in tax breaks and subsidies. Even Republicans admitted that these wouldn't do much to lower prices at the pumps.
But it's Christmastime year round for big business. Bush and Tom DeLay piled high the presents in the House bill. And these go way beyond drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a foolish proposal that will amount to just a drop in the global bucket.
Here are some of the hidden goodies:

(Read on via the link or in the print edition to know some of the hidden goodies.)

Page eleven is "No Comment." Like Ms., The Progressive does a "No Comment." Ms. focuses on questionable ads, The Progressive focuses on items published in periodicals. Here's one example:

Saladin the Superhero
The U.S. military is hoping to woo young people in the Middle East with a series of comic books.
An advertisement posted on the U.S. Government's website says "the series will be based on the security forces, military, and the police, in the near future in the Middle East." The army hopes to involve the ministries of interior of some countries.

Page twelve is Howard Zinn's "The Scourge of Nationalism." Here's an excerpt from the opening (and, yes, we also linked to this earlier this month):

I cannot get out of my mind the recent news photos of ordinary Americans sitting on chairs, guns on laps, standing unofficial guard on the Arizona border, to make sure no Mexicans cross over into the United States. There was something horrifying in the realization that, in this twenty-first century of what we call "civilization," we have carved up what we claim is one world into 200 artificially created entities we call "nations" and armed to apprehend or kill anyone who crosses a boundary.
Is not nationalism--that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder--one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred? These ways of thinking--cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on--have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.
National spirit can be benign in a country that is small and lacking both in military power and a hunger for expansion (Switzerland, Norway, Costa Rica, and many more). But in a nation like ours--huge, possessing thousands of weapons of mass destruction--what might have been harmless pride becomes an arrogant nationalism dangerous to others and to ourselves.

Sidebar, as we mentioned Thursday:

Also note that BuzzFlash is offering the DVD documentary Howard Zinn: You Can't Stay Neutral on a Moving Train.

Page fourteen is Nat Hentoff's latest Bill of Rights Watch entitled "Mask of Moderation." Here's an excerpt:

On March 16, the House, little noticed by the media, passed an amednment by Edward Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, to the Iraq supplemental appropriations bill that prohibited the government from using any funds that violate the International Convention Against Torture. Another blow against renditions but only a preliminary action.
The next day, Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, submitted a bill, "The Convention Against Torture Act," that would put a definitive end to renditions. But there is no sign that the intermittently independent-minded Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will hold a hearing on the bill. Leahy will try to attach it to an appropriations measure, but the rigid Senate Republican leadership could kill it on the floor.

Page 16 is Ruth Conniff's latest Political Eye: "Back-Alley Vasectomies." (Ruth Conniff blogs on Mondays at The Progressive's online web site. Her latest, linked earlier this week, is "We Must Denounce Torture.") From "Back-Alley Vasectomies," here's the opening three paragraphs:

Here's a twist on the insanity of the U.S. health care system: the back-alley vasectomy.
I heard about this practice from a friend who is a labor and delivery nurse at a Catholic hospital. She and her fellow employees cannot get health care coverage for birth control pills or other forms of contraception. So some of their husbands are coming in for under-the-table snipping by sympathetic surgeons.
Apparently, the practice is not just limited to Catholic hospitals (which constitute the nation's largest nonprofit provider of health care). I've heard about health care workers at secular institutions who, ironically, pay huge deductables and co-pays for health insurance. I've also heard about part time nurses who have scaled back their hours to take care of young children and therefore lost their families' health care benefits. They, too, are resorting to the secret scissor approach.

Pages eighteen through twenty-one are a photo spread of various activities such as "War Tax Resistance," "Spank DeLay," "No Nukes Protest," "No On Bolton" (Gale Muphy of CodePink at the Bolton hearings), "Save the Libraries" (Salinas, California -- CodePink was took action there as well), "World Bank Protests," and "Students Strike."

From the text for "Students Strike:"

New York City
Graduate students at Columbia University and Yale University held a strike April 18-22. The Graduate Employees and Student Organization is calling for the right to form labor unions and have those unions recognized by the universities.
In 2004, the National Labor Relations Board ruled labor law protections no longer apply to graduate teachers at private universities. Graduate teachers can still form unions, but they are not protected by federal law.
For more information, contact the Graduate Employees and Student Organization at

Pages twenty-two through twenty-five is Erik K. Gustafson's "Abandoment of Iraq is Wrong."
Gustafson "is the executive director of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC), based in Washington, D.C. and serves on the board of directors of Veterans for Common Sense."

His piece is not available online and the community won't agree with it, nor do I. We will do an excerpt:

Yes, Iraqi leaders want the U.S. to leave, but not immediately.
In January, the United Iraqi Alliance, the leading Shiite party that is close to the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, revised its position from a call for a definitive timetable for withdrawal of multinational troops to an emphasis on the importance of establishing Iraq's capacity to provide for its own security. This change reflects a growing understanding among Iraqi leaders that without a force capable of guaranteeing some measure of security, conditions would get even worse, no matter who was responsible for the situation to begin with.

We'll now move (with "no comment") to pages twenty-six through twenty-nine which is Norman Solomon's "U.S. Out of Iraq Now." Excerpt from the opening of his article:

Right now, our first responsibility to the Iraqi people is to stop killing them The occupation continues to be the main catalyst for Iraq's carnage. While major combat operations make big headlines, the American military engages in less-publicized routines such as using warplanes to bomb houses, further escalating the insurgency. "The leading cause of violence and loss of innocent life in Iraq is the U.S. military," says independent journalist Dahr Jamail, who has covered events on the ground for most of the last year. Estimates of the war's civilian death toll range from 21,000 to 100,000. And overall public health is appreciably worse than when U.S. forces arrived.
Before the invasion, many Iraqi children suffered from malnutrition, and one in eight died before their fifth birthday. Now the prognosis for Iraq's young is even more dire. "The latest reports show that acute malnutrition among children under five has nearly doubled in the last two years," UNICEF reported last November.
Then there are the U.S. losses -already more than 1,580 deaths and 11,000 serious physical injuries, along with the uncounted psychological damage. Officials in Washington never tire of saying that these casualities are profusely offered for squandering several billion dollars on the war each month.

A visitor may complain (no member will) that Solomon's excerpt is lengthier. It is. We've quoted Solomon here before (and should do so more, honestly). In the section quoted, he mentions Dahr Jamail (whom the community loves) and dealt with actual numbers. In the previous article we heard the usual "walking away isn't right!"

The members' belief (which I agree with) is that we are the cause. Forget "Pottery Barn" (which doesn't have that policy) and "we broke it so we must fix it." We hear that nonsense (sorry, that's what I think it is) all the time. We hear it from well meaning people and we hear it from saps. (I'll would argue Gustafson is well meaning.) It's not a view that's silenced by the mainstream media. It's the sort of thing you could hear Thomas Friedman arguing on TV or in his column.

We dealt with this notion of we broke it and we can fix it a long time ago. (See the December 2, 2004 entry "Should This Marriage Be Saved.") We dealt with the nonsense of Thomas Friedman, Nicky K, William Safire . . . then. Gustafson is well meaning and of the left so The Progressive was right to give him a hearing. But we've covered that view here before and the members agree on this so we're not going to waste time on it now. It would be as though we were awaiting for our order to arrive at the table and someone said, "Hey, should we order chicken?" We've already ordered. The orders' being cooked. We addressed this opinion already, add something new to it (facts, figures, history or first-hand observations) or we'll simply say "Next."

For visitors, I'll add simply that we're not your catch-all for the mainstream. If you've stumbled on this site and you feel the need to e-mail in "I think you should highlight Nicholas Kristof" (four e-mails this week) or other nonsense, sorry, not happening. First of all, you've missed the fact that you've arrived at a site that doesn't cover the op-ed pages of the Times. A member may comment on something, but I don't. That's why we ignore "White House Letter," et al. We may comment on a situation (such as Safire's departure, for some strange reason, meaning that the Times must replace him with another white, male conservative). We'll quote Bob Somerby's analysis of the op-ed writers. (He's a great critic and he's willing to wade through the op-ed pages, I'm not.) We noted Okrent because that wasn't supposed to be an op-ed. That was supposed to be a space to address the readers' concerns. (That rarely happened.) But if you're looking for "balance" and want the mainstream, walk on, walk
(That joke, from a friend, still makes me laugh, sorry.)

That view, a paternalistic one -- my opinion, is already out there all over the place. Members have heard it quite enough and we don't need it here. We know it. We've heard it. We disagree with it. Gustafson is well meaning (my opinion) and his article is in The Progressive that we're noting. So we did pull quote. That's quite enough, more than enough in fact.

Page thirty and thirty-one is Lloyd Axworthy's "Open Letter to Condolezza Rice." Here's an excerpt:

Dear Condi,
I'm glad you've decided to get over your fit of pique and venture north to visit your closest neighbor. It's a chance to learn a thing or two. Maybe more.
I know it seems improbable to your divinely guided master in the White House that mere mortals might disagree with participating in a missile defense system that has failed in its last three tests, even though the tests themselves were carefully rigged to show results.
But, gosh, we folks above the 49th parallel are somewhat cautious types who can't quite see laying down billions of dollars in a three-dud poker game.

Lloyd Axworthy is a "former Canadian Foreign Minister" and "currently president of the University of Winnipeg."

Page 33 is Will Durst's "Brand USA." Will Durst is a humorist. No excerpt provided here because I always fear I'll screw someone's set up with a joke. (Again, that's why we don't note Lizz Winstead's entries -- which are funny -- here unless a member sends in an excerpt that they do themselves.) "Brand USA" is not available online, however, "Daily Durst" is and you can check that out. In addition to "Daily Durst" at The Progressive, Durst contributes to BuzzFlash.
(His latest is at BuzzFlash is "Ring Around the Coercion.")

Elizabeth DiNovella has "Unembedded in Afghanistan" on pages 35 and thirty-six. Here's her opening:

"Afghanistan is safe," Laura Bush said after her six-hour visit to the country in April. "There are certainly parts of it that aren't right now. But, in general, I think it is a very safe place to travel."
Carmela Baranowska tells a different story from that of the First Lady in the documentary Taliban Country. The Australian filmmaker embedded with 800 U.S. Marines in Oruzgon province in May and June of 2004. After trekking with American troops, she returned to the isolated and dangerous region in central Afghanistan the Marines had dubbed "Taliban Country."
The film reveals an alliance between U.S. troops and a private army under the command of Governor Jan Mohammad, a man Baranowska calls "local warlord, police force and judiciary." Mohammed is an imposing figure with his shocking white beard, dark green cloak and turban, and an AK-47 slung behind his back.
We don't see much of Mohammad's army, though there is a terrific scene of Marines sharing the lad mad FHM with the militia. Both the American and Afghan young men giggle over photos of bikini-clad women.
MOhammad is corrupt, and the Marines know that. "From the first day, I was overhearing conversations, Baranowska told The Progressive. "They would say to each other, 'Oh, the governor is shady. We're paying him to be our friend.'"

Page 38 is a poem by Wendell Barry ("writer and a farmer in Porty Royal, Kentucky. His latest novel is 'Hannah Coulter' and the poem on the page is from 'Given,' his upcoming collection of poems."). The poem is entitled "Look Out" and here are the first seven lines:

Come to the window, look out, and see
the valley turning green in remembrance
of all springs past and to come, the woods
perfecting with immortal patience
the leaves that are the works of all of time,
the sycamore whose white limbs shed
the history of a man's life with their old bark,

Pages thirty nine to forty-three (Lloyd especially take note) is David Barsamian conducting The Progressive Interview with Robert Fisk. Here's an excerpt:

Q: The U.S. is building permanent military bases in Iraq. Their intention is to stay for many years.
Fisk: I think so. The great equation, which causes much bloodshed in Iraq, is this: The Americans must leave, and the Americans will leave, and the Americans can't leave. They can't leave for a whole series of reasons, which we know. Because if they leave behind them chaos, what did they achieve by invading Iraq?
Q: What are the historical parallels here?
Fisk: If you go back to the British invastion of Iraq in 1917, I have a document that was put up on the wall by General Stanley Maude when he arrived in Baghdad. "To the people of Baghdad: We come her not as conquerors but as liberators, to free you from generations of tyranny." We were saying the same things then. What happened when the insurgency started agains the British? It started in Fallujah, and we shelled Fallujah and half destroye dthe town. We surrounded Najaf and claimed we wanted a Shiite prelate who was an insurrectionist to be handed over to us. In the House of Commons, Lloyd Geroge stood up and said, "If the British Army leaves Iraq, there will be civil war." For some reason, the Americans didn't read the history books.
Q: What about Iraqi casualities?
Fisk: The Americans are not interested; they don't want to know. The authorities won't tell us. The health ministry, run by American appointees, won't tell us. Almost every day I go to the mortuary in Baghdad and find twenty or thirty people -- men, women, children -- dead of gunshot wounds, shot at American checkpoints, shot in family feuds, shot by insurgents for alleged collaboration. The Iraqis are paying a terrible, terrible price every day for our adventure. And this is just Baghdad I'm talking about, not Mosul, not Najaf, not Basra. And when you hear Iraqis say it was better under Saddam, it's time we listen to them. They know what Saddam waslike. They don't want Saddam. But they mean there was security. Do you want freedom and anarchy or do you want dictatorship and security? If you have a family, it's a big choice to make.

Fisk also praises the writing of Seymour Hersh and John F. Burns in the interview. Fisk also discusses his new book entitled The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East. I can't find it at Powell's Books, but Amazon notes that it's set for release on November 8, 2005.

The issue ends, page 50, with Molly Ivin's "Money and Santimony." For Kayla who asks for more Ivins here, we'll note the beginning (and hopefully, no one will feel I've spoiled the set up):

Meet Tom DeLay, in his new role as the Emily Post of politics. "It is unfortunate in our electoral system, exacerbated by our adversarial media culture, that political discourse has to get so overheated that it's not just arguments, but motives are questioned," said DeLay.
Did someone mention motives in those all-expense-paid vacations?

Hopefully, everyone's gotten a taste of the current issue of The Progressive. If there's something that interests you above, check your local libraries and bookstores if you don't already subscribe or regularly purchase The Progressive. (I've linked to everything available online.)

We'll note two more things from The Progressive online.

Matthew Rothschild's "Stripping Rumsfeld and Bush of Impunity" ("billed as "an advance look at the July cover story" -- June's issue just arrived this morning -- Friday morning, it was still Friday when I started this entry). From Rothschild's article, here's the opening:

When Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee last year, he was asked whether he "ordered or approved the use of sleep deprivation, intimidation by guard dogs, excessive noise, and inducing fear as an interrogation method for a prisoner in Abu Ghraib prison." Sanchez, who was head of the Pentagon’s Combined Joint Task Force-7 in Iraq, swore the answer was no. Under oath, he told the Senators he "never approved any of those measures to be used."
But a document the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) obtained from the Pentagon flat out contradicts Sanchez’s testimony. It’s a memorandum entitled "CJTF-7 Interrogation and Counter-Resistance Policy," dated September 14, 2003. In it, Sanchez approved several methods designed for "significantly increasing the fear level in a detainee." These included "sleep management"; "yelling, loud music, and light control: used to create fear, disorient detainee, and prolong capture shock"; and "presence of military working dogs: exploits Arab fear of dogs."
On March 30, the ACLU wrote a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, urging him "to open an investigation into whether General Ricardo A. Sanchez committed perjury in his sworn testimony."
The problem is, Gonzales may himself have committed perjury in his Congressional testimony this January. According to a March 6 article in The New York Times, Gonzales submitted written testimony that said: "The policy of the United States is not to transfer individuals to countries where we believe they likely will be tortured, whether those individuals are being transferred from inside or outside the United States." He added that he was "not aware of anyone in the executive branch authorizing any transfer of a detainee in violation of that policy."
"That’s a clear, absolute lie," says Michael Ratner, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who is suing Administration officials for their involvement in the torture scandal. "The Administration has a policy of sending people to countries where there is a likelihood that they will be tortured."
The New York Times article backs up Ratner’s claim. It says "a still-classified directive signed by President Bush within days of the September 11 attacks" gave the CIA broad authority to transfer suspected terrorists to foreign countries for interrogations. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International estimate that the United States has transferred between 100 and 150 detainees to countries notorious for torture.

The second thing we'll note is that Rothschild interviewed Amy Goodman for his show Progressive Radio. You can listen to it online: Amy Goodman Interview.

The e-mail address for this site is

Thought I was done, but I flip back and forth between posting and e-mails and Markus e-mailed to note Amitabh Pal's Blog which appears on Friday. Pal's latest is entitled "U.S. poor fare badly by comparison:"

The New York Times has been publishing an excellent series on class in America. One quote in that series particularly stood out for me. Berkeley economist David Levine told the paper that "being born poor in the U.S. gives you disadvantages unlike anything in Western Europe and Japan and Canada."
I decided to verify if that's true. One of the sources I used was the website of the
Organization For Economic Cooperation and Development.
The numbers spoke for themselves.

Click the link to continue reading Pal's latest. (And thanks to Markus because I would've missed that if you hadn't noted it.)