Archive for May, 2010

Annals of Censorship: Chomsky Denied Access to Israel & West Bank

May 16th, 2010 Comments off

Among its many failings, the US mainstream media doesn’t give much time, attention, or critical scrutiny to the situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

From questions of apartheid in the Occupied Territories to the status of Israel’s nuclear weapons program, American journalists rarely take up issues that may put Israel in a bad light — let alone challenge the wisdom and legitimacy of US government aid to Israel.

So it should come as no surprise at all to find that news of MIT Professor Noam Chomsky being denied access to the Israel and the West Bank is receiving little if any coverage or comment in the mainstream news.

According to this item from Haaretz, Chomsky, the famed American linguist and political activist, was on a speaking tour of the region and scheduled to speak at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank on Monday.

The Haaretz story continues: “Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said officials were now trying to get clearance from the Israel Defense Forces, which controls access to the West Bank to allow Chomsky to enter that territory.

“We are trying to contact the military to clear things up and if they have no objection we see no reason why he should not be allowed in,’ said Hadad.
Chomsky said inspectors had stamped the words ‘denied entry’ onto his passport when he tried to cross from Jordan over Allenby Bridge.”

This is the latest instance of high-profile visitors from the United States and elsewhere being denied entry into Israel and the Occupied Territories. In fact, last July, former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney was detained and ultimately deported for participating in a humanitarian mission to Gaza.

Here again, this story received little traction in the corporate media. Nor does the Free Gaza Movement — an international human rights group — get much mention in either US public broadcasting or the commercial press.

The US press corps is infamous for its insularity and its acquiescence to American and Israeli politicians and policy makers. This makes for a rather one-dimensional perspective on one of the most vexing and consequential obstacles to peace and security in, and well beyond, the Middle East.

The Inscrutable Ms. Kagan

May 13th, 2010 Comments off

Earlier this week, President Obama announced that Solicitor General Elana Kagan was his nominee for the Supreme Court.

Kagan’s nomination dominated this week’s news cycle,effectively putting the BP oil disaster and Afghan President Hamid Karza’s “Happy Together” tour in Washington, DC on the US press corps’ back burner.

As with most inside-the-beltway debates, the Kagan nomination seems tailored to serve elite interests. Only more so.

Unremarkably, the Democratic leadership is failing all over itself repeating the Obama administration’s line on Kagan: a pragmatic progressive — whatever the hell that means.

For their part, Republicans have responded in a far more subdued tone that you might expect, given their track record with such things for, say, the last decade or so.

Corporate media, and not a few public broadcasters, nevertheless had plenty to say about the ensuing “debate” over Obama’s pick to the High Court.

Leave it to Stephen Colbert to call our attention to the fact that the GOP’s muted response to the Kagan nomination is definitely out of character.

In this clip, Colbert notes that the Conservative attack machine is MIA. And along with his guest, Salon senior editor, Dahlia Lithwick, Colbert suggests that the Kagan nomination isn’t all that threatening to either executive power or corporate interests.

That’s what you call a “win-win” for the power elite.

As always, Colbert’s mix of pop culture references and incisive political satire is a brief, but rewarding, respite from the awful truth: despite our enormous wealth and power, America’s democracy has never been more fragile and precarious.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Kagan Worship – Dahlia Lithwick
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Fox News

Netroots victory

May 7th, 2010 Comments off

A victory, of sorts, for the netroots this week. On Thursday, FCC Chairman Genachowski announced his intention to develop policies that would protect the open Internet.

Earlier in the week, the FCC Chair suggested that he was backing off of his pledge — one that the Obama Administration has made repeatedly — to support the principle of net neutrality. Over the course a few days, the FCC was inundated with phone calls and emails protesting this move.

Although Genachowski hasn’t delivered all that net neutrality proponents may have hoped for, the move puts the brakes on the efforts of the big Internet Service Providers — Comcast, ATT, and Verizon — to deregulate ISPs.

Reaction to the FCC’s announcement was predictable: the ISPs were pretty tight lipped about the whole thing. What’s clear is that the telecommunication giants will redouble their lobbying efforts. For their part, net neutrality proponents breathed a sigh of relief. Still, the consensus was one of guarded optimism.

For instance, Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge: “We are generally very pleased with the FCC’s statement this morning. We have said for months that the right path for the Commission to take would be to examine all the possibilities for the best way to protect consumers and guarantee the expansion of broadband. The method the FCC is expected to propose should be on the table, and we are glad it is.”

Sohn continued, “Having said that, we were not pleased to read that the Commission at the outset is foreclosing the possibility of requiring line sharing. As the Berkman report found, line sharing is a crucial method to ensuring the long-term vibrancy of the broadband market and to providing more choices for consumers.”

As I said, a victory of sorts. The netroots effectively mobilized at critical moment. Time to keep the pressure up and provide a counterweight to the multi-million dollar lobbying efforts underway inside the Beltway.

Phoenix Suns Protest

May 5th, 2010 Comments off

In a statement issued by The Phoenix Suns, the organization stated that players will wear their Los Suns jerseys during tonight’s NBA Western Conference playoff game in protest of the recent Arizona immigration law.

According to Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver “Our players and organization felt that wearing our ‘Los Suns’ jerseys on Cinco de Mayo was a way for our team and our organization to honor our Latino community and the diversity of our league, the state of Arizona, and our nation. We are proud that 400 players from 36 countries compete in the NBA, and the league and the Suns have always considered that to be a great strength of the NBA.”

Sarver continued, “The frustration with the federal government’s failure to deal with the issue of illegal immigration resulted in passage of a flawed state law. However intended, the result of passing this law is that our basic principles of equal rights and protection under the law are being called into question, and Arizona’s already struggling economy will suffer even further setbacks at a time when the state can ill-afford them.”

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in American news outlets. No doubt there will be some discussion of whether such statements and actions are (in)appropriate. For what its worth, here are a few thoughts of my own…

The Sun’s players and organizations are making a perfectly legitimate, principled and courageous, use of the spotlight on sports. The statement is an eloquent refutation of the controversial legislation in Arizona. Moreover, the public display of solidarity with immigrants sends a powerful message to the state, the nation and, because the NBA is a global industry, the wider world. To my mind, by wearing their Los Sons jersey’s during the playoffs on Cinco de Mayo, the Sums organization is consistent with the NBA’s interest in promoting positive social change through sport.

This tactic is not without potential pitfalls — the team may alienate some fans. Nevertheless, the decision is noteworthy for any number of cultural and political reasons. For instance, basketball and sport in general has long been a site of cultural politics. Whether we consider the Jackie Robinson breaking the color line in major league baseball, Billie Jean King fighting for gender equality, or Muhammad Ali’s public resistance to the war in Vietnam, sport is a venue for people to “work through” fraught social, economic and political issues and concerns.

On this score, the Suns decision is but part of a much longer tradition of using sport as an occasion to express patriotism or dissent (e.g. The ‘infamous’ Black Power salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics). Any suggestion that sport is not or should not be “politicized” misses the point. Sport, politics, and nationalism are inextricably bound up in notions of collective identity and relations of solidarity — whether in the context of the Olympic games or the ritual singing of the Start Spangled Banner at major sporting events.

Reporters should attend to this story and uncover its historical significance. To my mind, it would be gratifying (but doubtful) that journalists will give this story the same play as say, the Tiger Woods episode. At the end of the day, Woods’ indiscretion had very little significance on the lives of ordinary Americans. By contrast, the Suns’ decision adds another layer of complexity and debate to the Arizona legislation. Legislation that is already having an impact on people’s lives in Arizona and across the country.

In this regard, this incident gives journalists an opportunity to reflect on their news values and judgments. Here again, the pack journalism surrounding Tiger Woods reveals an appetite for celebrity, scandal, and sensational narratives. All too often, this sort of story generates more heat than light. By taking this principled stand, The Suns are adding a little heat to the debate over immigration. More important, they are shedding light on the significance of immigration to the American experience — and striking a blow for social justice.


May 2nd, 2010 Comments off

An Open Letter to Bill Moyers

The Bloomington Alternative

Editor’s Note: On Friday April 30, 2010, veteran journalist Bill Moyers, host of the PBS public affairs series Bill Moyers Journal, retired from broadcasting at the age of 75.

Dear Bill,

Like a lot of people across the country who are troubled by the crisis of journalism, I have mixed feelings about your retirement from the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

On one hand, I have grave misgivings about the future of investigative journalism and current affairs programming on public television. Despite assurances from PBS executives to the contrary, I fear that in your absence journalistic standards on U.S. public television will decline precipitously.

On the other hand, I appreciate your desire to take a break from the demands of a weekly public affairs program. You have been a fixture on public television for as long as I can remember, and you deserve some time for yourself.

Of course, I have no doubt that you will continue to do your life’s work, albeit in a slightly less public manner. In any case, as you signoff from PBS, I wanted to say, “Thank you.”

Thank you for never shying away from controversial subjects: abuses of executive power, reproductive rights, the separation of church and state, the corrosive influence of lobbying in legislative processes or the privatization of the military are but a few “hot topics” you have explored.

Thanks for providing in-depth and substantive coverage of the most critical public policy issues of our day — from campaign finance reform and climate change, to health care, education, housing, immigration, the war on terror and, of course, the future of journalism.

Thanks for your unflinching commitment to journalistic integrity. In an era marked by soft news, scandal, celebrity journalism and lifestyle reporting, it’s all too commonplace for news workers to follow the pack. You lead by example. Never one to take the path of least resistance, you have demonstrated the value and significance of high-caliber broadcast journalism for over 40 years.

Thanks for mentoring generations of news workers — professional, independent and citizen journalists alike — who share your concern for the state of our democracy and who take seriously the decisive role journalism plays in promoting enlightened and informed self-governance.

Thanks for asking tough questions, for inviting your guests to engage in a civil dialogue and debate, and for speaking your mind with great wit, compassion and insight.

Thanks for being such a forceful and effective advocate of public media. For taking issue with the commercialization of public broadcasting, for supporting ongoing media reform efforts and for defending the First Amendment with such wisdom and grace.

Thanks for sharing your curiosity with the nation. Here, I’m thinking about some truly important documentary series you have produced, such as The Public Mind, The Power of Myth and Faith and Reason. Like few others in either commercial or public broadcasting, your work embraces and celebrates the diversity of human culture and experience.

Thanks, finally, for celebrating our living democracy. Fashionable as cynicism is these days, you defy defeatism, resignation and populist pandering. Over the course of your long and illustrious career, you have demonstrated time and time again the virtues of our experiment in democracy.

I salute you, Bill Moyers, for all you have done to practice the craft of journalism in support of a democratic culture.

And I wish you and your family all the best in your retirement.