Friday, January 28, 2005

Puttin' on the Ritz in DC

Thank you, Dear Readers, for helping to send us to DC to cover the inaugural protests. In this issue, you'll see Judy Hanna's review of the trip, photos by our cub reporter, and several photo albums and video clips that will give you a sense of the moment. You can watch the photos in a slide show by selecting "slides" at the top of the photo. I especially love the photos of Granny D; it was a great honor to spend some time with her. My pictures.

If you have broadband, or are a dialup user with patience, I think you'll enjoy "Puttin' on the Ritz" a video from a sidewalk where real inaugural ball attendees mixed with barb-happy Billionaires for Bush.

Other DC videos snippits, to give you a sense of the zaniness that took some of the pain out of the weekend, include a quick bit by performance poet Chris Chandler, and one typist's sidewalk stenography activism.

Our new page - http://democracyweek.org/mambo/ is dedicated to current news delivered in audio and video formats only. You'll find some of your favorite news sources, as well as a few new ones. If you have ideas of other audio and video news feeds to add, please let us know.

There are articles in this week's issue by Dennis Burke, Judy Hanna, David Swanson and Mike McNeely.

Karen Kilroy
DemocracyWeek Co-Editor/Webmaster

Friday, January 14, 2005

Setttle Back for the Long Ride

From 1968's Easy Rider (screenplay by the late Terry Southern):

George (Jack Nicholson): You know, this used to be a helluva good country. I can't understand what's gone wrong with it.

Billy (Dennis Hopper): Huh. Man, everybody got chicken, that's what happened, man. Hey, we can't even get into like, uh, second-rate hotel, I mean, a second-rate motel. You dig? They think we're gonna cut their throat or something, man. They're scared, man.

George: Oh, they're not scared of you. They're scared of what you represent to 'em.

Billy: Hey man. All we represent to them, man, is somebody needs a haircut.

George: Oh no. What you represent to them is freedom.

Billy: What the hell's wrong with freedom, man? That's what it's all about.

George: Oh yeah, that's right, that's what it's all about, all right. But talkin' about it and bein' it - that's two different things. I mean, it's real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. 'Course, don't ever tell anybody that they're not free 'cause then they're gonna get real busy killin' and maimin' to prove to you that they are. Oh yeah, they're gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom, but they see a free individual, it's gonna scare 'em.

Billy: Mmmm, well, that don't make 'em runnin' scared.

George: No, it makes 'em dangerous.

-------------------

The film came out in 1968, the year Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were killed. The Vietnam War was in high gear. We tend to think the hell-in-a-handbasket direction of our country is very recent, when in fact we have been invading the wrong countries and voting the wrong way for quite a few years now. Doris Granny D Haddock's 95th birthday speech, printed in the current edition of Democracy Week, lays out the long term cure for a long term illness. It's worth a read: http://DemocracyWeek.org

The idea of romancing the American protest movement as a Velvet Revolution, American-style, seems to gaining purchase, as you'll read in her remarks. Blogger Brad Friedman (http://BradBlog.com) has joined forces with several other blogger and indy news sources to create http://velvetrevolution.us, which seems to be taking names and preparing for what they hope to be a grand collaboration between protest elements.

The Left is remarkably difficult to organize, however. Its anti-authoritarian bent makes it distrust its own leaders, always looking for fatal imperfections.

Mr. Friedman agrees but sees hope: "There are factions within [the Left] that do (and should!) resist. But I'm quite certain that there is a hunger now for such leadership. Even if there will be spats, disagreements, and if the process of truly organizing gets a bit unruly, as I mentioned, revolutions are messy," he told us.

"It's not quite as easy for the Left to snap into perfect marching form. But, if anything, that's what the movement is about. Freedom," he continued.

"What we have learned (or at least I have) over the past two months or so, is that leadership is desperately sought right now. Our ad hoc groups made tremendous progress over the past weeks. Accomplishing the invocation of an arcane Constitutional provision for only the second time in well over one hundred years [the objection to the Electoral votes cast from Ohio in Congress] was nothing short of miraculous, given the disparate nature of all the folks working on these issues," Mr. Friedman said.

He expanded: "Imagine what we could do if we all came together! At least with an umbrella organization set up to *support* all of the disparate efforts. Not to drive them, or create them, or to force them on anybody. But rather to be able to turn on a dime and funnel people and resources and attention and money to those small groups...or even those single citizens who are doing something so important for democracy, but need the power of the people behind them. That's what I hope Velvet Revolution will be able to do."

Why is he pursuing this new approach?

"Bloggers like myself, at least for now, aren't privileged to receive a paycheck. We do what we do -- or at least I do what I do -- not because I want to, but because I feel as if I have no choice. Believe me, I would rather be doing *anything* but what I find myself doing (via both BRAD BLOG and Velvet Revolution), but I truly feel that if I don't do these things, they won't get done. Unfortunately, I feel that our democracy demands that they get done."

Democracy Week has signed up to help.

--Dennis

Monday, January 03, 2005

No Freedom without a Free Press

The broad-daylight theft and repression of votes in the 2004 election goes largely unreported for reasons that are easy to understand if you simply imagine Columbus' Free Press news journal--nearly the sole open eye on the problems in Ohio--being purchased by a major corporate media chain. The first reporters to go, or to be assigned to write movie reviews, would be Harvey Wasserman, Steve Rosenfeld and Bob Fitrakis. (See their reports at http://freepress.org)

Locally owned news organizations are as vital to our democracy as our Constitution itself. Very few of today's political problems would be with us if the major newspapers and broadcast news organizations were run by the crusty editors of even a generation ago. That is a depressing fact, but it is also encouraging to know that, if we can fix this one problem, we fix many other problems with it.

The fact is, many of the stories being missed are good stories that would sell newspapers and boost broadcast audiences. "Bush linked to bin Laden family; arranges kin's speedy exit," would have been a headline guaranteed to make the newspaper vending machines slam and jingle. We could think of dozens of such opportunities during the last four years. Newsrooms, however, have become career battlegrounds where journalistic zeal has taken a back seat to creative lurking. The easiest way to deflect a story that could put you even one inch out on the limb is to label it a conspiracy theory.

The profit motive is the second problem. Newspapers used to be happy to return a 5% profit to their mostly local investors. Major newspapers now must produce 20% to 40% operating profits to keep the far-away CEO happy. How do you do that? It is cheaper to plant a reporter and a truck at the Scott Peterson trial for two months than to chase a dozen hard stories--especially stories that may require days or even weeks of work before an iffy payoff.

The third problem is that media conglomerates are run by the brand of CEO forged in the Reagan Administration's reign of corporate-raiding terror. Those highly-paid princes justified their pay by turning around companies soaked in debt from hostile takeovers or from self-inflicted overborrowing to stave off takeover. Those CEOs thrived on layoffs and outsourcing, factory closures and union-busting. The bigger the jerk, the more money commanded. They tended, in short, toward the Republican side of life. They are now in charge of much of our dwindling economy, and they write memos to editors who let leftie articles find their way into print or broadcast. They are not into benign neglect, because, if for no other reason, they hate it when Karl Rove calls about a story.

Forms of corporate torture, most notably the performance review, wherein the detainee it invited to list his or her own crimes and shortcomings, have taken over what used to be a mentored brotherhood and sisterhood of the news. Unpaid or low-paid interns now compete with young reporters, keeping entry wages low and making each promotion or performance review a critical emergency for the family budget.

I know people at major broadcast networks who have to clear all their stories with the top brass, and they are often asked to rewrite them from a more conservative point of view. It is soul-deadening to work for such organizations.

We have to save these folks--these dedicated reporters and editors who dearly wish they could be journalists again.

That will be one of our missions in the next few years. It must be, if we're to have a democracy.

Please see http://DemocracyWeek.org for this week's unreported big story: Ohio.

--Dennis