Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Democracy Now: Prisoners during the hurricane; Ruth Rosen, Ruth Conniff, Danny Schechter, Grace Lee Boggs, Christine ...


St. Patrick's Four Acquitted of Conspiracy Charges
In Binghamton New York, four peace activists known as the St. Patrick's Four were acquitted on conspiracy charges Monday but convicted of two lesser charges. Their legal advisor Bill Quigley declared the verdict to be a "major victory." The four defendants - Clare Grady, Teresa Grady, Peter DeMott and Daniel Burns - were the first peace activists facing conspiracy charges since the Vietnam War. They were all arrested on March 17, 2003 after spilling their own blood inside a military recruiting station. The jury convicted them of misdemeanor counts of trespassing at a government facility, and damaging a government facility. They each face up to 18 months in prison.


Report: FEMA Rehires Michael Brown As A Consultant
CBS News is reporting that the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown, has been rehired by the agency to serve as a consultant to evaluate its response following Hurricane Katrina. On Sept. 12 Brown announced his resignation saying "it is important that I leave now to avoid further distraction from the ongoing mission of FEMA." The Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that Brown is still on the payroll but claims it is just because his resignation has not taken effect yet.


FBI Director Calls for Probe in Killing of Puerto Rican Nationalist
The FBI is coming under intense criticism in Puerto Rico after FBI agents shot dead Puerto Rican nationalist leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios. Thousands are expected to attend his funeral today. While he was considered a hero to many in Puerto Rico, the FBI viewed him as a fugitive wanted in connection to a $7 million bank heist. Autopsy reports show that Ojeda Rios bled to death after being left alone in his house for 24 hours after he was shot. When agents finally entered his house they found him lying dead on the ground armed with only a pistol. On Monday, Ojeda Rios' wife publicly said 20 FBI agents surrounded their rural farmhouse and fired the first shots. The FBI is now admitting that Ojeda Rios offered to negotiate but the FBI refused after he asked for an unidentified reporter to be present. On Monday FBI Director Robert Mueller called for an independent investigation into the shooting. In New York over 100 protested the killing at a rally at Federal Plaza.


The above three items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Joan, Francisco and LyndaDemocracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for September 27, 2005

- Five Shiite Teachers Killed in Iraq
- Nearly 400 Arrested in D.C. For Civil Disobedience
- Lynndie England Convicted For Abusing Iraqi Detainees
- Longtime GOP Fundraiser Elected to Head CPB
- FBI Director Calls for Probe in Killing of Puerto Rican Nationalist
- Report: FEMA Rehires Michael Brown As A Consultant
- Israel Arrests Nearly 300 Palestinians Arrested in West Bank
After the Hurricane: Where Have All the Prisoners Gone? More Than 500 From New Orleans Jail Still Unaccounted For

A month after Hurricane Katrina, serious questions remain about the fate of hundreds of prisoners in New Orleans. Human Rights Watch says there are 517 unaccounted for, while prisoners and their lawyers say many were abandoned in the flooding jails. We'll speak with Human Rights Watch's researcher, as well as a man who was in the Orleans Parish Prison during the storm, and two lawyers fighting to discover what exactly happened inside the jails. [includes rush transcript - partial]
Has the Government Abandoned New Orleans' Top Black Colleges?

The two historically black colleges in New Orleans remain closed after Hurricane Katrina's devastation. Reopening the colleges requires money, which may prove a challenge. We speak with the President of Xavier University about this.
Al Jazeera Spain Correspondent Sentenced to Prison on Charges of Collaborating with al Qaeda

Al Jazeera correspondent, Taysir Allouni, rose to prominence after conducting the first interview with Osama bin Laden after 9/11. A Spanish court has just sentenced him to 7 years in prison on charges he aided al Qaeda. We go to Spain to speak with journalist Lamis Andoni, who currently works as a consultant for al Jazeera. She was with Taysir Allouni one of the three times when he was arrested on charges of collaborating with al Qaeda. [includes rush transcript]
As countless e-mails point out, Ruth Rosen has an incredible piece entitled  "Get Hitched, Young Woman" (the always intelligent Ruth Rosen writing at Tom Paine):

Consider what’s happened ever since Katrina stormed through the Gulf Coast. For the first time since the 1960s, Americans watching the news rediscovered poverty. Suddenly, everyone could see that Bush’s tax cuts to the wealthy had not, in fact, lifted all Americans into the middle class.  

What a perfect moment to change the subject and blame poor African-American women for causing the poverty the world witnessed in the aftermath of Katrina.  Without skipping a beat, Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review ,  proclaimed that the “The root of it [the poverty exposed by Katrina] is the breakdown of the family.  Roughly 60 percent of births in New Orleans are out of wedlock.”  Lowry then went on to propose a “grand right-left bargain that includes greater attention to out-of-wedlock births from the left in exchange for the right’s support for more urban spending…”

Clueless liberals quickly accepted Lowry’s clever reframing of the problem. Nicholas Kristof embraced it as an “excellent suggestion” in his New York Times column.  Even former Sen. John Edwards, who attacked Bush for supporting the privileged, rather than the poor after Katrina, called on everyone to speak “hard truths” about the out-of wedlock pregnancies that condemn so many people to perpetual poverty.

Don’t get me wrong. Stable two-parent families--absent violence, drugs or alcohol--usually offer children the best chance to escape poverty. But Lowry and his cheerleaders have it backwards. The decline in teenage pregnancies since the early 1990s, particularly among African-American girls, indicates that young women are, in fact, taking greater personal responsibility. As New York Times reporter Jason DeParle revealed in his book American Dream , it is poverty itself--not a lack of personal responsibility--that is the main reason for single-parent families.

With amazing gall, conservatives have shredded the safety net and then blamed unmarried mothers for their own neglect-the-poor policies.

The point of Rosen's article is that the nonsense "programs" that ignore realities don't help and that the programs that have helped are of no interest the right or the easy answers crowd.  That when in doubt, the right attacks the single mothers time and, again, treating a systematic problem with economic and political roots as though it's a "personal" problem.  (Ava and I, while reviewing NBC's Three Wishes dealt with that kind of nonsense this weekend.)
It also fits in nicely with Ruth Conniff's latest in The Progressive, "Rick Santorum's America."  Rich Lowry, like Rick Santorum, blames the individual and not the the destruction of the safety net.  Lowry is the easier target (as hard as that might seem) because the destruction of public housing (before the hurricane hit) and other practices are well known.  For him to blame "unwed mothers" is especially hollow (though very pleasing to him -- self-pleasuring?).
Likewise, when he writes about a former welfare recipient whom he actually knows, his staff assistant Michelle, his admiration runs afoul of his policy prescriptions. He doesn't seem to notice that Michelle's success is the story of a woman who left her children's father (a big no-no in Santorum’s book), got help in a publicly funded shelter (which he doesn't support), and used welfare money to supplement her while she got a technical-college education (welfare recipients should be compelled to drop out of school and take the first job available, Santorum argues). Though he praises Michelle, most of her achievements result from choices Santorum opposes and has sponsored legislation to combat.
While cutting needed funds, the Richies (Lowry & Santorum) are perfectly happy to push programs of "just say no" (to females only, of course).  That others rush to prop this nonsense is saddening, but not surpising.  (Katha Pollitt, The Nation, has long tracked Nicky K and his nonsense.)  Read both the Ruths (and I hope to pick up on Conniff this evening, but we know how that goes).
Markus e-mails Danny Schechter's latest News Dissector (the whole thing copy and pasted) with the note that he couldn't pick one thing to excerpt.  Reading it, I see the problem.  There's a lot of important information.  As always, we'll grab something for those who are busy and don't use the links but if you have the time, you'd do well to read the entire thing.  Here's the excerpt (picked by me):

Crises can bring governments down, but they can also concentrate power and have even worse outcomes. In the case of President Bush, the branch of government he seems to like best is the one that follows orders and does not talk back. CNN reports that his administration's failure to respond promptly to recent hurricanes and floods is being seen inside the beltway as an opportunity to further militarize our society.

The occupation underway in Iraq may yet become a model for an occupation to come inside the United States. Scary? You bet.

CNN led last night with this:

President Bush wants to make it easier for the Pentagon to deploy military troops during domestic disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. But a critic of that idea says Bush risks undermining "a fundamental principle of American law" by tinkering with the Posse Comitatus Act.

The Washington Post reports:

On Sunday, President Bush called on Congress to consider a larger role for U.S. armed forces in responding to natural disasters, as he completed what White House aides called a weekend "fact-finding" mission to determine whether the Pentagon needs more control.

"Clearly, in the case of a terrorist attack, that would be the case, but is there a natural disaster -- of a certain size -- that would then enable the Defense Department to become the lead agency in coordinating and leading the response effort?" Bush said after a briefing from military leaders at Randolph Air Force Base here. "That's going to be a very important consideration for Congress to think about."


Sam Smith tears apart that type of reporting in Progressive Review:

The [article] is an example of the how the media, without even thinking about it, propels bad ideas into the public consciousness. The closest the Post comes to dealing with the enormous implications of this proposal is to trivialize support of the constitution and democracy as a "sensitivity," sort of like Muslims wearing scarves or some people not being able to eat peanuts. The Post further takes for granted that (a) there was widespread rioting and violence in New Orleans and (b) that the military would have been the best to take care of this "desperate" situation. In fact, the actual state of New Orleans during the storm is far from clear. Was there, for example, more violence than, say, on an average Mardi Gras weekend? We don't know. Certainly much of the looting was for the purposes of survival. In any case, as Iraq has proved, there is little evidence that the best way to handle such situations is with the military.



Danny also notes that Nightline is no more.  On that development we'll note a section of Ava and my review "TV Review: Peter Jennings Reporter Leaves a Bad Taste" (The Third Estate Sunday Review):


 Peter Jennings was a reporter. You don't really appreciate that by watching Peter Jennings Reporter. From Peter Jennings Reporter, you get Jennings "humanized" (or Disney-fied). You're never allowed to judge the quality or importance of Jennings' work because they only show snippets that they quickly cut away from and those are usually layered with voice overs from others. It's as though someone made a musical but every time there was a dance scene, the camera was trained elsewhere. ("Show the feet!" we'd scream at that. Here we just screamed, "Show the reporting!")

Bob Iger made it clear what he wanted -- the person, not the career. That's what he got. So why call it Peter Jennings Reporter? Why the testimonials of people who continually stressed how interested Jennings was with the world, how important what made it on to the newscasts he anchored was? Because the news department wanted one special and the bosses wanted another. The news department fought to work in what they could (they're especially proud of the sequence on tobacco -- which includes a tobacco exec raving over how fair Jennings was, showing "all sides"). Management wanted what they saw as a two hour Oprah special.

The special demonstrated the continued conflict between the news departments and the bosses who see it all as another form of entertainment. And in this round, news lost. (Though people in the news department fought very hard.) We heard grumbles about some of the news "stars" included in the special but the message came down that the network wanted their own highlighted. Some stress to us that it's a miracle that two hours of prime time television was turned over to news. We'd agree with that if w'ed actually seen any news.

We didn't. Where Jennings hit hard, the special went soft focus. Who was Fox speaking of? What happened to Chris and Jeremy? Why was big tobacco present to attest to Jennings' ability to see all sides? The answer to those questions go to why this wasn't a news special.

We assume that two hours (commerical free or not) of a news program would have excited and thrilled Peter Jennings. We doubt he'd look fondly at the results of this special. As the testimonials (the good ones) noted, Jennings was able to tell a story in understandable terms. The special didn't do that. It existed in a world where a report from Iran was an important as announcing it's midnight in Moscow, a world where a story was turned into a tease without an ending. It wasn't journalism.

When they release it on DVD (yes, it's coming) we'd suggest that they change the title to A Peter Jennings Tribute. That's what it was (Kate Aurthur called it correctly). It wasn't Peter Jennings Reporter. And we'd suggest that people interested in news think long and hard on that special. Even with some strong people fighting to present a news special, they weren't able to win the battle against The Walt Disney Company. Jennings had power (which, as one testimonial acknowledged, he knew how to use). We're not sure anyone else in front of the camera at ABC does.

Cynthia McFadden spoke on camera of how Jennings really didn't want coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial on World News Tonight. In a few more months, we may wish that World News Tonight was covering topics as "important" as the O.J. Simpson trial.

Gilbert e-mails to note Grace Lee Boggs' latest entitled "Creating a Culture of Safety" (appears in The Michigan Citizen and also at The Boggs Center):
The September 12 Detroit Free Press carried an article praising Cuba's "Disaster Plans."  I hope this means that, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, more Americans are ready to recognize that we have much to learn from anti-capitalist societies.
The Free Press article was based on a report: Weathering the Storm: Lessons in Risk Reduction in Cba issued by Oxfam, a group of non-governmental organizations working worldwide to fight poverty and injustice.
"Cuba is a small and poor country whose geographic location gives it a high and recurrent risk of hurricanes.  In the seven years between 1996 and 2002 six major hurricanes have hit Cuba, yet a total of only 16 people have died.  By comparison, when Hurricane Isabel hit the mid-Atlantic United States in September 2003, it alone was directly responsible for 22 deaths and indirectly responsible for six.  The question fairly posed is "What is Cuba doing right in terms of disaster anticipation and preparedness?"
I hate going into the template, hate it, hate it, hate it.  I was in it last night to do a change of address (Corrente Wire) but I'll go back in tonight as well.  Martha just e-mailed to note this, which we are reprinting in full,

Thanks, and Good Night

This marks the last post I'll write for Ms. magazine. I'm grateful to Ms. for the opportunity to sound off in this space for almost three years (whew!) and to all ms.musings readers and other bloggers for the insightful comments, links and encouragement. Ms. has launched two new blogs -- The Smeal Report and A New Leif -- that I'm sure you'll enjoy.

Years ago I started an online magazine called
PopPolitics.com. It later turned into a blog, and that's where I'll be keeping up my cultural commentary. I hope to see you all there -- and please feel free to get in touch.

Posted by Christine on September 26, 2005 07:29 PM




We'll add PopPolitics tonight.


Christine did a great job and covered everything.  (Everything.)  Amazing two years.


The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.


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