Best-selling author and broadcaster Laura Flanders hosts the The Laura Flanders Show, where she interviews forward thinking people from the worlds of politics, business, culture and social movements about the key questions of our day. The LF Show airs weekly on KCET/LinkTV, FreeSpeech TV, and in English & Spanish in teleSUR. Flanders is also a contributing writer to The Nation and Yes! Magazine (“Commonomics”) and a regular guest on MSNBC. She is the author of six books, including The New York Times best-seller, BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species (Verso, 2004) and Blue GRIT: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians (Penguin Press, 2007). The Laura Flanders Show first aired on Air America Radio 2004-2008. You can find all her archives and more at Lauraflanders.com.
In times like these, when many people's rights and benefits are shrinking, it's easy for the Right to set us at each other's throats. And if the past is any guide, that's just what we're in for, as Radical religionists fire up their engines against gay marriage. The arguments will be cast in terms of choices and morality, but what it is, make no mistake, is wedge politics.
As the attack on same sex marriage takes off, we're likely to hear all about difference: what entitles some people to the rights and benefits offered by the state -- and not others. But marriage isn't about difference. It's about a common longing to be part of communities that love and care for us. In stressed-out times, that longing for connection -- and protection -- grows particularly sharp. "Belonging's only for some," say some. "Let us in!" say scared-to-death outsiders.
Which brings us to wedge politics. It's great for the state of California to welcome a new group of people into the community of those whose partnerships the state helps and protects. Thanks to the Supreme Court of California and the movements that have pushed this issue forward, the door of belonging has been shoved open a bit. But winning marriage equality in order to access benefits and rights doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot if those longed-for benefits and rights are gurgling down the economic drain or entering the government's shredder.
If there was one topic that focused media attention this weekend, it was the death of one of the industry's own: Tim Russert. Russert's passing provoked praise and grief and mourning across all the media and a good amount of talk about journalism and its practitioners. It's no surprise. Over decades at NBC Russert, host of the flagship Sunday program Meet the Press had become a massively influential media presence.
For me one moment stood out. It was Friday, soon after the news of Russert's death broke. NBC anchor Brian Williams was interviewed on camera from Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. Calling Russert's death "an unfathomable loss", he appeared to choke up. You could hear the pain in his voice.
Watching him there -- in Afghanistan, but it could as well have been Iraq -- I couldn't help but think. After how many hundreds of thousands dead in the US's two assaults on those two countries -- what if Williams, or Russert or any of the big power news men ever expressed emotion about other deaths. What if we saw them pause and choke up – even once – at the slaughter of an Afghan family in a misguided US missile attack, or swallow hard while reporting the blowing-to-bits of an Iraqi father as he lined up to buy food or find work?
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.