Sunday, January 15, 2006

Ruth's Morning Edition Report

Ruth: Programming notes at the start of this report:

Monday, January 16, WBAI-Pacifica Radio, 99.5 FM, New York, will broadcast A Special Birthday Tribute to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Join us for an extraordinary 21-hour-long program starting at 3 AM. Beginning with Citizen "K" opening with the documentary "Citizen King." Stay with us through the day as we bring you rare complete speeches and sermons given by Dr. King as he moved from a relatively unknown country preacher to the world stage as one of the greatest leaders in the movement for civil and human rights. For 45 years WBAI has recorded many of the most memorable and powerful moments in the struggle for freedom, justice and equality in the US, painstakingly archiving the recordings for ongoing listener and community education and enjoyment. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches are perhaps even more relevant today than when he first gave them. The issues of social justice, racism, poverty, equality, civil liberties, human rights, globalization, war and peace are still making a powerful impact on the daily lives of humanity.

That is this Monday on Pacifica's
WBAI. How did Pacifica end up with such strong archives? By covering what others did not want to. We saw that again this week with the Judiciary Committee's hearings on Judge Samuel Alito Jr.

Second programming note, is for the morning of Sunday the fifteenth, and remember programs are
archived if you are reading this after the fifteenth:

Sunday Salon with Larry Bensky airing on KPFA 9-11 am Pacific Time
In our first hour... Iraq on-the-ground... We'll be joined in-studio by independent journalist David Enders, author of the new book "Baghdad Bulletin: Dispatches from the American Occupation." Enders spent 15 months in Iraq, where he arrived weeks after the U.S. invasion. He never once lived inside the Green Zone. And, Raed Jarrar recently moved to the Bay Area from Iraq. His family recently moved to Jordan after being one of the last families in their circle to stay in Iraq. Jarrar has done much work on the ground in Iraq.
In our second hour... The first of 6 planned executions in California this year... Clarence Ray Allen will turn 76 on Monday, January 16th, just after midnight on the 17th, the State of California plans to execute him. He has advanced heart disease and diabetes, is legally blind, hearing-impaired, and uses a wheelchair. Meanwhile, the state Legislature is considering a Moratorium on the Death Penalty. Our guests: Assemblymember Sally Lieber of San Jose is a sponsor of the legislation; Dr. John Groner will talk about the state of health care in California Prisons; and others.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held live hearings on the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito Jr. for Surpreme Court Justice. The Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment. Any nominee, whether he or she makes it through the process and is confirmed or not, is news.

Barring ill health or an accident, a Justice will serve longer than a President, even one elected to two terms, and will impact the make up of the Court and the way the Court rules. Judge Alito, who is currently a federal judge, is the second of Bully Boy's nominees to sit before the Judiciary Committee. Judge John Roberts Jr. was confirmed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in late 2005. Bully Boy's original nominee for slot being vacated by Sandra Day O'Connor was Harriet Miers. Ms. Miers' nomination imploded for a number of reasons, including questions about qualifications, though, to hear the press tell it now, apparently the right-wing reaction to Ms. Miers' nomination did her in.

Such were the facts leading up to hearings on Judge Alito. Cleary the hearings were both news and of interest to the public good. So where was public radio? NPR passed.
Pacifica was there with their gavel to gavel coverage.

As repeatedly demonstrated last year, when events call live coverage,
Pacifica puts their scheduled programming on hold to provide the public service required. Possibly, chucking the usual NPR fare might mean losing some of the corporate underwriting that NPR depends upon?

If you felt, as I did, that the hearings were disappointing, they were still newsworthy. Those listening to the hearings noted that Judge Alito refused to term Roe v. Wade settled law and that, despite the media reports, he did not give any indication of being "open" to Roe. Instead he cited Casey vs. Planned Parenthood which was a case that upheld Roe in parts but also chipped away at some findings in Roe. As the mainstream media applauded Judge Alito's 'clever' manner in dealing with questions, those who didn't follow the coverage live may not have grasped how often he avoided answering questions which included more than mere side stepping.

While rocking Elijah mid-morning Friday, I wondered where the analysis was? Throughout the week Verna Avery Brown and Mitch Jeserich would highlight key moments during the breaks, early on they were joined by Larry Bensky, and speak to assorted guests who would raise issues and offer insights. It was only after the song playing went off that I realized I was not listening to the hearings on KPFA. All of the Pacifica stations do a wonderful job, but I have never known to KPFA to break away from a live coverage so if, like me, you missed the analysis during the breaks, make a note to listen to KPFA when Pacifica provides live coverage.

Wednesday's report, I made a point to note some of the guests offering commentary, I would now like to note the callers who also added to the coverage. Some got to the point immediately, some were highly knowledgable about the process, but all added to the coverage. That includes the man who phoned, I believe on Thursday, to offer that Judge Alito should be confirmed. I disagreed with the caller's reasonings but he had his say and was heard which is what public radio is all about.

As C.I. noted here and in roundtables for the gina & krista round-robin, watching the hearings in person did not provide any indication of how they were playing out if you listened to them, watched them or followed after the fact coverage. By taking calls from listeners, Pacifica's coverage included not just what went on in the hearings, news analysis and experts who could speak to key topics, it also included the public a key part of public radio. So I have high praise for Pacifica's coverage of the hearings.

The hearings themselves? This is the week that Elijah, my grandson, figured out how to remove his own diaper. He most enjoyed doing this when he had a "poopy" diaper. I think I a great deal of what I heard said in the hearings was reflective of what was in the diapers I rushed around repeatedly to pick up.

Tracey and Jayson came over after school each each day and would listen in, except for Friday when the hearings had concluded before school ended, hoping each time that this would be the day the Democrats had "a game plan." They were very disappointed in the process. But I was impressed with both grandchildren because they are still willing to fight the confirmation by contacting their senators and because they are geared up for other battles on the horizon.

My own take was less productive. Until 2005, there was a man still sitting on the Court who'd been appointed when I was a young woman that I opposed then and every day after. These are lifetime appointments and neither Chief Justice Roberts nor Judge Alito can be considered elderly. If appointed, Judge Alito will be with us for many years. Having lived through the breakthroughs and progress of the Warren Court, watching the Rehnquist Court undue much of that progress has been depressing.

Justice O'Connor has been, in my opinion, overly praised. She was not just one of the five with the majority in the 'one time decision' of Bush v. Gore, she was also someone who upheld only parts of Roe. As a strong supporter of Roe, I do understand the desire to see her remain on the Court and found myself wishing, since her announcement to retire, that she would announce she had changed her mind and would remain on the bench. Judge Alito, if confirmed, will steer the Court ever more rightward but as someone who remembers the Warren Court, I try to remind myself that Judge O'Connor is a "moderate" only in relation to the current make up of the Court.

So as the Bully Boy attempts to replace a conservative with a more extreme conservative, I attempt to remember that we will lose a fair weather friend of Roe as opposed to a close ally. I also attempt to tell myself that having bungled the hearings for the second time in a row, the Democrats on the committee will be organized if and when Bully Boy nominates a third person to the Court. That may be the biggest delusion of all.

If there was a master plan of strategy that Democrats serving on the committee were operating under, it was lost on me. Topics and issues came and went. Follow up questions were rare from an individual senator and even rarer still from other senators. I feel that in the next hearing, one Democrat should be in charge of determining the key strategy. Due to the way he conducted himself in the hearings and his senority, I would designate Senator Ted Kennedy for that task. He should outline and enforce the strategy for each day's hearings. If an individual senator felt that the outline did not include an issue that was important to them or their constituents, they should bring up that issue in relation to day's framework outlined by Ted Kennedy. What should have been a hard look at Judge Alito's decisions and beliefs came off, instead, like a catch all as Democrats attempted to touch on every topic under the sun without any spine that tied the questioning together.

For myself, the issue was the right to privacy. That issue was the umbrella under which questions of reproductive choice, questions of human rights and sexuality, questions of governmental spying all fit. But there was no attempt to tie them together in the questioning.
Instead the questions came and went playing out as though the senators were going down a laundry list of items and checking each one off as they went along.

The environment is also an important issue and, while I am not aware of how to tie that into the issue of privacy rights, eight senators should be able to think that through much better than I could. A constant refrain from each senator could have been, "Judge Alito, let's get back to the concerns many have over your views on the right to privacy."

This is at the heart of the problems many of us have with Judge Alito. Noting the unitary executive power issue, Chip Pitts of the
Bill of Rights Defense Committee stated Wednesday, "Alito still holds to this and would be a danger on the Supreme Court." He referenced a question from Republican Senator Jon Kyle as to who would have the last word in a conflict between the branches, the president? Judge Alito's response was, "Yes, that's right." The implications of that statement are frightening. This was one of many threads that the Democrats, collectively, dropped; however, it seemed to demand greater exploration.

The hearings are over. Hopefully the nomination can be stopped on the full floor of the Senate. But, as Tracey and Jayson pointed out, there are additional battles. With that in mind, I'll repeat this from
Wednesday's report:

Bush Commission . . . will be holding a tribunal in New York City from January twentieth to the twenty-third. The first day of the hearing will take place at The Riverside Church on 123 Riverside Drive and will begin at 5:00 pm. The second day will take place at the same location and begin at 10:00 am. The final day, Sunday, the hearings will move to the Law School at Columbia University and will begin at 1:00 pm. More information can be found online at Bush Commission and also by calling (212) 941- 8086. Also at the Bush Commission website, you can find information on the October 2005 hearings including audio and videos you can watch online as well as text excerpts.

The commission is discussed on Monday's
Law & Disorder, an archived broadcast of that episode can be heard at the Law & Disorder website. This week's CounterSpin addressed the realities of Iraq via The Independent of London's Patrick Cockburn, an unembedded reporter who has been reporting on the occupation since the invasion. Also of interest in that broadcast of CounterSpin is Janeane Jackson's interview with journalist Brian Dominick of the NewStandard about what lessons the media seem to have absorbed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. One theory? Raw emotion.

Regular programming returns to
Pacifica this week and I am sure many of us are looking forward to hearing our favorites. But I will close by again noting and thanking Pacifica for providing the gavel to gavel coverage of the hearings and for serving the public interests as public radio should.