As long as I've lived in America I've enjoyed the comic ritual known as
the "hunt for the smoking gun," a process by which our official press
tries to inoculate itself and its readers against p
On June 16, the House Appropriations Committee voted to slash funding for public broadcasting by more than $200 million for 2006. The cut--which, if implemented, would affect everything from "Clifford the Big Red Dog" to programming on small news outlets that serve rural and minority audiences--marked a devastating blow for public television and radio. The full House is expected to vote as soon as tomorrow.
Worse yet, the June 16 de-funding vote marked just one part of a larger assault on public broadcasting. Bush ally Kenneth Tomlinson, chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), offered the latest example with the revelations that he hired a longtime GOP operative to track "anti-Bush" and "anti-Tom DeLay" comments by the guests of NOW with Bill Moyers. This move prompted Congressional calls for an investigation into charges that Tomlinson had become "a source of political interference" in public broadcasting and helped spark cries for his resignation from a host of public interest groups and politicians.
Free Press is one of a few national groups waging a major battle in defense of public broadcasting. With so much at stake in this debate, Free Press's efforts are more than worthy of support.
During the Vietnam War, protesters burned draft cards, rallied on campuses and marched on Robert McNamara's Pentagon. Today, with the war in Iraq raging on and on, parents, teachers and other community leaders are spearheading a new antiwar effort, telling the military to keep their hands off the children. The Times' Bob Herbert put it well: "The parents of the kids being sought by recruiters to fight this unpopular war are creating a highly vocal and potentially very effective antiwar movement."
The debacle in Iraq has made recruiting an impossibly difficult job and recruiters are sinking to new lows in the face of growing pressure to fulfill monthly quotas as well as fierce opposition from parents who don't support the President's botched Iraq war mission.
While the stunning list of recruiting abuses has received some needed media attention, it's worth reviewing the extremes to which the military has gone to fill its ranks. In Houston, one recruiter warned a potential recruit that if he backed out of a meeting, "we'll have a warrant" for the potential recruit's arrest. In Colorado, a high school student, David McSwane, who wanted to see "how far the Army would go during a war to get one more soldier," told recruiters that he didn't finish high school and that he had a drug problem. "No problem," the recruiters responded. McSwane was told to create a diploma from scratch and to buy products at a store that would help him beat the drug test.
In 1990, Aung San Suu Kyi was legally elected the leader of Myanmar, then named Burma. But she has spent most of the time since 1989 under some form of detention, including house arrest for the last two years, following a surreptitious attempt on her life by pro-government forces.
From time to time, the military junta that imprisons Suu Kyi promises to release her, but today supporters around the world observe her 60th birthday with no sign of her freedom. Nonetheless, activists around the world are using the occasion to honor the human rights leader and highlight the injustice of her continued detention and the tyrannical regime holding power in her country. (Major birthday events are taking place today in Edinburgh, Bangkok, Manila, San Francisco, and, most courageously, across her small Southeast Asian country.)
Amnesty International has also launched a global petition calling on the Burmese authorities to stop abusing the justice system to silence peaceful political activists and to immediately and unconditionally release Suu Kyi along with the other 1,350 political prisoners estimated to be rotting in Myanmar jails currently.
There is painful irony in the fact that, during the same month that the confirmation of "Deep Throat's" identity has allowed the Washington Post to relive its Watergate-era glory days, the newspaper is blowing the dramatically more significant story of the "fixed" intelligence the Bush Administration used to scam Congress and US allies into supporting the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Last week, when the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Michigan Democrat John Conyers, chaired an extraordinary hearing on what has come to be known as the "Downing Street Memo"--details of pre-war meetings where aides to British Prime Minister Tony Blair discussed the fact that, while the case for war was "thin," the Bush Administration was busy making sure that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy"--the Post ridiculed Conyers and the dozens of other members of Congress who are trying to get to the bottom of a scandal that former White House counsel John Dean has correctly identified as "worse than Watergate."
Post writer Dana Milbank penned a snarky little piece that, like similar articles in the New York Times and other "newspapers of record," displayed all the skepticism regarding Bush Administration misdeeds that one might expect to find in a White House press release.
"We see this as the beginning of the end," said Tom Andrews, a former Democratic representative from Maine who is executive director of the antiwar group Win Without War. "It's the very beginning of a new wave of activism on this war. There's a real sense that something is beginning to move."--Los Angeles Times, Friday June 17, 2005
Earlier that day, a friend and longtime antiwar activist left me a voice mail message. Just ten days earlier he told me that he was more depressed about our politics than at anytime in the last 40 years. "Hello, this is..." he said. "I was in Washington yesterday at the rally and at the Conyers hearings. And since I laid a heavy statement on you last week, I just wanted to make a correction. It's finally over. My despair is over. Something has happened these last ten days that has revived the antiwar issue. It has to do with public opinion polls and casualties and Republicans like Walter Jones and more Democrats standing up. I won't say how optimistic I am. But something is coming together--you can feel it."
You can feel it.
Today, voters in Iran cast ballots for a new President--choosing from a field of eight candidates that includes hardline clerics and reformers. The campaign has underscored how dramatically political life inside Iran has changed in recent years.
Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, has been in Iran during the final days of the presidential election, interviewing a wide range of people. In an article this past week, he reported: "The Moin campaign [Mostafa Moin is the leading reformist candidate who polls show as the second choice. He is also the only candidate with an active blog] drew 10,000 people to a rally at Tehran stadium Tuesday night. A number of speakers emphasized that the campaign is aiming to lay the groundwork for a movement--and this election is just the beginning...The Tehran Time reported Wednesday [that] the outspoken Moin 'referred to the upcoming establishment of a Democracy and Human Rights Front in Iran to defend the rights of all Iran's religious and ethnic groups, the youth, academicians, women and political opposition groups whose rights are often neglected..'"
"In a country, " Solomon observed, "where political imprisonment and torture continue, such public statements are emblematic of a courageous movement struggling to emerge from the shadows of the Islamic Republic. "
Congressman Walter Jones is a Republican from North Carolina, he voted for the war in Iraq, and he coined the term Freedom Fries. So he's obviously no peacenik, but he is the first Republican to break with the White House and call for a firm date to withdraw American troops from Iraq. He says he had a change of heart when he saw the devastation this war has caused to military families across the country.
Military families aren't just speaking to their Congressional representatives; they are speaking loudly to all of us by refusing to allow their sons and daughter, husbands and wives to enlist. President Bush interpreted the November election as an affirmation of his agenda, but as we see from his plummeting poll numbers, the unpopularity of his policy proposals, and the dramatic drop in recruitment numbers, he was wrong.
Congressman Jones said in an interview last Sunday with ABC's George Stephanopoulos that he votes his conscience first, his constituents second, his party third. Even if this is just a good line, it's exactly the way we need our politicians to think if we are ever to get out of this terrible mess in Iraq.