Contributing writer Laura Flanders is the host and founder of GRITtv with Laura Flanders, a daily talk show for people who want to do more than talk. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species (Verso, 2004) and Blue GRIT: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians (Penguin Press, 2007). A regular contributor on MSNBC, Flanders has appeared on shows from Real Time with Bill Maher to The O’Reilly Factor. Flanders is the editor of At the Tea Party: The Wing Nuts, Whack Jobs and Whitey-whiteness of the New Republican Right… and Why we Should Take it Seriously (October 2010, OR books). For more information, go to LauraFlanders.com or GRITtv.org.
The Windfall Profits Tax Monster Is Back," so headlined the Houston Chronicle. The GOP's defeat of a bill that would have put a 25% excess, or "windfall" profits tax on oil profits led some wags among the oiligopoly to crow that "even a broken clock is right twice a day" (meaning the Senate.)
For a different perspective, listen to Dan Stormer, a lawyer who's representing Nigerian plaintiffs in a case against Chevron. With the economy on the dive and many blaming high oil prices, Stormer, says that when you tally in the blood that's spilled in oil production, oil's price may be far too low. As for "windfall" profits-- that's blood-money.
Ten years ago last month, Nigerian security forces opened fire on peaceful demonstrators in the Niger Delta, killing two and injuring others. The people shot were protesting, says Stormer, for nothing more than what they'd been promised: jobs, schools, water they could drink, economic development. Now four Nigerian plaintiffs are suing Chevron in US federal court. Nigerian soldiers were paid by a subsidiary of Chevron, they say, and the company bears responsibility for the murders. Trial dates are set for September.
Want to see my two cents on the question of whether Gloria Steinem was right? This Saturday at the 2008 National Conference on Media Reform, Roberto Lovato and I were asked to comment. We've posted the video of my two cents.
Take a look and tell us what you think. Click here: GRITtv.org.
The New York Times saw fit to mark the fifth anniversary of the US invasion by inviting nine "experts" including not one soldier to reflect on the conduct of the war and occupation of Iraq. The Times chose to listen to Richard Perle and Robert Bremer III but not one soldier. The Times has no time for troops like Camilo Mejia or Kelly Dougherty. But the public must take the time.
Mejia and Dougherty were among the hundreds of young servicemen and women who shared wrenching, infuriating, riveting eyewitness testimony over the last three days at Winter Soldier hearings in Silver Spring, Md. While the Times's "experts," include men and women who personally played a disastrous role in urging on and then conducting this war, the Winter Soldier hearings, organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War, brought the public the occupation as seen by the very young men and women at the bottom of the chain of command whose lives have forever been transformed by what we and the US government asked them to do in our name.
It is testimony you have a responsibility to watch or listen to. Some addressed broad policy issues having to do with the rules of engagement, occupation, the treatment of civilians and detainees and the treatment of troops on their return. Some related to specific violations, including rape, indiscriminate killing, torture, desecration of the dead and the apparently common practice of dropping weapons on dead civilians to make them look like combatants. More than one soldier described being told to carry "drop weapons," in their vehicles.
If Barack Obama's South Carolina win was a "black" thing, it's awfully strange how it's going down in Butte. US towns don't come much whiter or more hope-resistant than this battered old Montana mining town. And yet organizers here resonate with his call, not because they think he'll change things here, but because they believe the movement he's inspiring will help them do that work.
It was mid-morning Sunday when I finally flipped open my laptop to watch Obama's South Carolina victory speech. The only other soul in the faded foyer of the once-grand Finlen Hotel was Debbie, the receptionist. Obama's words drew blue-eyed Debbie over. What do you think? I asked. Looking at the crowd, her smile revealed more than a few missing teeth. "That looks like everybody," she said. "That's good."
The Finlen is a lonely place; a 1920s relic perched on a snow-swept slope between stone-cold, closed Victorian banks and bars and the country's biggest toxic Super Fund site. Butte was once the copper capital of the world (and the most unionized town in the US) but the swag and smut of the 1880s is long gone and Butte's as broken now as the bones of its best-known 20th century export - Evel Knievel. And even he is dead.
There is one thing the Church of Stop Shopping's Reverend Billy wants you to buy this season: a ticket to his new movie, "What Would Jesus Buy." Make that purchase now and you'll add anti-media-monopoly oomph to your personal buying-power.
Writes the Reverend: "Every one of you who make it to the movies today dramatically increases the chance we can take the Stop Shopping message to Tulsa, to Long Island, to Cheney, Washington."
What Would Jesus Buy (WWJB) which opened this weekend in limited release, is a loving celebration of Reverend Billy's anti-Shopocalypse crusade. "We want people to buy less and give more," says Billy, (aka performance artist, Bill Talen.) With his wife and co-conspirator, Savitri Durkee and their 40-person Stop Shopping gospel choir, Talen's been preaching against commercialism since before "malling" became a frightening verb. The film, directed by Rob VanAlkemade and produced by Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) follows Billy and his church-mates as they travel the country on a pre-Christmas anti-shopping tour.
Whether to be cheered or downcast? That's the question. TV wasn't born a male preserve, it's just grown up that way.
I was thinking about that this weekend as I watched NBC celebrate Meet the Press. MTP is the longest, continuously-running program on US television. At the end of this Sunday's show, a list of past hosts sped by. The first was Martha Rountree, the show's first host, and needless to say, last female anchor.
Curious, I dug around a little. Rountree, it turns out, not only anchored the first broadcasts (starting in 1947) but came up with the format in the very early days of TV. The format -- a panel of people asking questions of a guest -- was her idea.
I know the US Democratic contenders' debate is important, but how important, compared to, say, the imposition of martial law in nuclear Pakistan?
If the last debate was any indication, the University of Nevada's Las Vegas campus is right now crawling with reporters assigned to cover the presidential horse-race. According to Drexler University, close to 400 members of the media were "credentialed" for October 30th's debate. More than 200 news organizations covered it. One New York daily sent a "live" blogger and five of their editorial staff, including two political editors and a gossip columnist. (The Daily News's Heidi Evans authored an all-important sidebar on Hillary Clinton's ten-year old bout with deep vein thrombosis.)
As for Pakistan, we called around. According to their spokespeople, US networks are relying on just a handful of reporters to cover what could well be the world's most critical crisis. ABC alone, boasts two full-time producers in Pakistan: Gretchen Peters and Habibullah Khan. Philip Reeves, NPR's man on the story, is based in New Delhi. (Sariah Nelson, reports on the region from Kabul.) NBC opened a bureau in Islamabad two years ago but flew in Richard Engel, Middle East Bureau chief and correspondent to cover the crisis. CBS told us they retain one regular camera crew and use local or flown-in reporters "depending on the story." CNN has a bureau in Islamabad, but declined to offer details. Fox News may not have understood the question.