Friday, March 10, 2006

Guantanamo, Spying and why it's important to get the word out

Good evening. What day is it? Come on, you know it's worth a smile! Friday! End of the week at last. :D Democracy Now! wrapped up a powerful week from London, hope you made a point to check it out. Let's get it started with Democracy Now!

250 Doctors Condemn U.S. Treatment of Prisoners at Guantanamo
More than 250 medical experts have co-signed a letter condemning the United States for force-feeding prisoners on hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The letter appears in the British medical journal The Lancet. The doctors wrote "We urge the US government to ensure that detainees are assessed by independent physicians and that techniques such as force-feeding and restraint chairs are abandoned." The doctors also said the American Medical Association should instigate disciplinary proceedings against any members known to have violated ethical codes while working at Guantanamo.

The New York Times wanted to call this "tough measures." It's torture. And it's a shame for our country that our own medical profession isn't leading on this. On Democracy Now! today, Amy Goodman interviewed a former member of England's Parliment, Tony Benn, and he said they were hostages. I agree with that.

Civil Liberties Groups Seek Court to Shutdown NSA Spy Program
Two civil liberties groups asked the federal courts on Thursday to force the Bush administration to end its warrantless domestic spying program because it violates the privacy and free speech rights of US citizens. The requests from the Center for Constitutional Rights and American Civil Liberties Union came just days after Republicans blocked a Senate investigation into the National Security Agency spy program. ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said "In America, no one is above the law, not even the president. The president's allies in Congress are preparing to cover up his illegal program, while others in Congress are standing on the sidelines. When the President breaks the law, Congress should not be giving him a get-out-of-jail free card."

How about that Center for Constitutional Rights? Aren't they doing a great job? They just put out Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush. That's a great book and it should be required reading for everybody. I'll give credit to Democracy Now!, C.I. and Ruth for making me aware of them because I really wasn't. I don't just mean before I started this site. Even as late as October, I wasn't really aware of them. I think that's a great example of the power in highlighting left voices. All three of them, highlighted people like Michael Ratner, Barbara Olshansky and the Center itself. By constantly noting them, I slowly picked up on them and I bet I'm not alone in that. You can't just bring up someone one time and expect that everyone goes, "Oh, Michael Ratner" or whatever.

Think about the "pundidiots" of the mainstream media, the ones you see jaw boning everywhere. I don't like Cokie Roberts but it's hard not to know who she is because she's on TV, radio and everywhere else. You can try to escape her, but you can't. Repetition is how her name is known.

And that's why it bothers a lot of people, including me, when our left outlets are hawking some AEI gas bag or Howard Fineman or some other right winger or centrist. If our left outlets, radio, TV, print, web, aren't getting the word out on our left voices, who will?

If we're going to change anything in this instant where anyone can have a voice (due to online access), it's not going to change anything if we're always going to the mainstream. C.I.'s typed "God forbid another 9/11 happens, but if it does, you'll need to be able to know the voices that speak for you." Something like that. And the point C.I.'s making is that dissent was the norm after 9/11 and if the voices that can speak to us weren't shut out of the process, how might things have been handled differently?

That's why C.I. always says The Common Ills is a "resource/review" and not a "blog." It's about noting the voices that are out there. And maybe a member loves Ms. G and another member doesn't but loves Mr. L -- if they're both tossing them out there, then other members can see if they identify with those voices.

There's a whole range of left voices that have been left out of the debate. They do exist. But if you don't know about them, C.I. points out, you can feel like you're the only one who feels that way. Knowing that you aren't alone can be empowering.

And like Ruth. Is anyone not on Pacifica or one of of it's affiliates highlighting it the way Ruth does? I can go online and find NPR here, there and everywhere. Usually a lot of faux lefties praising it. But do you hear about Pacifica?

You should. You should know that they are out there. Even if you don't listen or you can't listen, you should know that they're out there. It matters on how you see the world around you and they matter.

I remember when I found The Common Ills because it was just a big moment. There weren't a lot of people right after the election still talking about the war. Most were "moving on." That's not fair. There were a lot of voices. But you didn't hear about them from the sites and people you would hope to hear about them from. It's like it was "Oh we lost the election, we've got to win in 2006, so let's talk about religion and values and let's talk about this and everything but the war."

I was "Michael," by the way, at The Common Ills then. "Mike" was already a member. So I was "Michael." Then I started this site and everybody started calling me "Mike" in the community. C.I. was still calling me "Michael" because there was already a "Mike" but then "Mike" was cool enough to swap with me.

But I'd read about someone I hadn't heard of and I'd think "Cool." Then they'd show up again later and I'd start to slowly get to know the name. I like all the voices that members highlight but I do have my favorites that speak to me. And if I was just watching ABC and going to the usual websites, I would've missed out on them.

My parents are news junkies and they knew about Democracy Now! and watched but it wasn't until I was a member of The Common Ills community and seeing it noted every day that I started thinking, "Dude, I gotta check this out." That's how it works. And like Ruth has been getting the word out on a lot of shows but one of them is Law & Disorder. Monday, Nina listened just because Ruth keeps highlighting them and the highlights have made her interested.
She listened Monday and she loves the show. She's going to record it for me next week, I'm at work when it's on, and she never would have listened if Ruth hadn't been promoting it.

So, my point here, is we do have left voices. But people who say they are left aren't always doing their part to get the word out on them. I don't need talking points, I need voices making arguments and you don't get that a lot online. You get a lot of people who seem to be wanting to be "players" or prove they're mainstream by highlighting just that. If we're going to pull the country back from the rightward tilt that the mainstream is pushing us toward, we're going to need left voices, not centrists passing for left. That's people like Arundhati Roy and Laura Flanders and Danny Schechter and Margaret Kimberley and more. Joe Klein's not going to change anything.

Now here's a voice I love and it's one I try to highlight as often as I can remember, the great Dave Zirin's latest, "Lynching Barry Bonds:"

"If he did it, hang him!" This is what ESPN radio host John Seibel (filling in on the Dan Patrick show) said about Barry Bonds. Is Seibel oblivious that some may take offense to the image of a controversial Black athlete being lynched, or is this just red meat thrown to the worst impulses of his audience? It would be one thing if Seibel was the exception, but the media is in an orgiastic frenzy, lustily tearing Bonds apart and eating him alive. Sports Illustrated this week released excerpts of a new book Game of Shadows, which maps out in painstaking detail the copious steroids that Bonds has allegedly consumed. Prominent columnists are calling for his head on a spit. This is painfully predictable payback executed by a media that Bonds has skewered throughout his career. Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly, for example, said that he would like to talk to Bonds but "He would probably just tell me to cure cancer or something."
I have always made my feelings clear on this issue and they are unchanged: Barry Bonds is the greatest baseball player since Babe Ruth. He is the only player in history to have 500 home runs and 500 stolen bases. He averaged a 30/30 (30 home runs and 30 stolen bases) for the entire decade of the 1990s, and he is the only player I've ever seen who can change the game with every swing. I also am partial to Bonds because I actually LIKE when he tells someone to "go cure cancer." I like that he asked congress why they were talking about steroids when people still don't have heat or clean water in New Orleans. Is it
self-serving? Sure, but no more self-serving than the writers who sell papers by assessing the size of his body parts like he's some sort of beast. As for whether or not he took steroids, I still believe in something that may seem quaint in Bush's America called the presumption of innocence. But if it is actually proven that he took steroids, then I think its not Bonds that should be on trial -- in the court of public opinion or elsewhere -- but Major League Baseball.

In all the scolding coverage over steroids, you don't hear a lot of talk about the owners or the League itself. You have to find a real left voice, like Zirin, to take on that aspect. We need voices like Zirin and they're out there. But if we don't know they're out there, we'll watch ESPN or the local sports show or read the sports section and just think, "Yep, those bad baseball players on steroids." If a player is on steroids or suspected of it, you better believe the owners are suspecting it too. But they're focusing on how much money they can squeeze out of the player.
What's their guilt in all of this? You won't hear those kind of questions from your mainstream sources.

C.I. doesn't expect that most members ever click on links, they just read the excerpts. That's cool. Know who's out there. Over time, you'll be able to tell Zirin or whomever just by reading the excerpt. And you'll find yourself saying, "Oh well David Zirin says . . ." Not "Romey says . . ." or whomever. That's a sea of change.

Democracy Now! is a great show and they could've thought, "Oh, Zirin, sports. We've got eight million other things to focus on now." But they didn't. They realized he was an important voice offering a left perspective and they put him on air for an hour. That's how I first heard him about and his book. That's the power we all have. We can do that in our own group of friends. That's my message for tonight.

By the way, Ruth asked us recently to all pick an episode of Democracy Now! that stood out to us:

Also on terrorism, Mike noted the interview with Jennifer Harbury, in July, about torture committed by the CIA.

From that same report by Ruth, I'm going to toss in Ma's section too:

Trina selected the interview with Camilo Mejia upon his release from jail because "I didn't see the [Boston] Globe rushing to interview him. The story matters but you get to a certain age and you learn what matters to the people and what matters to the corporate press are frequently two different things." Trina also added that, for her husband, she'd better note the broadcast of Jessica Lange's speech at the September rally in D.C. "We saw that, remember?" Trina reminded me. "In person, and he and Jim's father were like school boys while she was speaking. You would have thought they'd have it out of their systems but when it aired the following Monday, I heard all over again how smart and how beautiful Jessica Lange was. She is. You don't need to hear that from your husband repeatedly but for those who missed the speech, it was worth airing."

That made me laugh because when we were all in DC, you should have heard the dads go on and on about Jessica Lange. She is a very beautiful woman and she gave an amazing speech. But my dad, Jess's dad and Jim's dad were like ga-ga over her. They got teased so bad over that. :D

Now hop on over to Like Maria Said Paz and check out Elaine's thoughts. And have a great weekend.