Friday, September 21, 2007

Why is the Progressive Blogosphere MIA on Jena?

Pam Spaulding points out what I alluded to below, that the progressive blogosphere has not had the case of the Jena 6 on its radar, although it was highlighted by Democracy Now's Amy Goodman over two months ago.

Reading Pam's post, and surfing through the leading progressive blogs is a trip of cognitive dissonance, particularly as Pam notes, many of these same blogs are only to eager to capitalize on the Republican candidates' dissing of minority-moderated debates and events.

Why such a blindspot among us?


I started this post yesterday (September 20) and briefly let it publish before returning to it to make some revisions and ultimately to send it back to draft status when I couldn't get it together in a way that suited me.

In the interim, the peaceful marching and demonstration in Jena of "tens of thousands" of mostly African Americans from around the country has taken place.

And still. No commentary from the blogosphere (except for Pandagon's Pam Spaulding). (cue the sound of crickets chirping)

This is really shocking to this white senator.

How to explain it?

The answer I was trying to put together yesterday had to do with the fact that we white bloggers are mostly consumed with the Great Partisan Debate. This preoccupation lends itself to a focus on national issues, like war and the economy, and to national figures, like party officials and media elites. That is to say, if an issue, development or situation can be immediately and directly plugged into the Great Partisan Debate, than it is fodder for the blogger mill. But if the issue is perceived as parachial (i.e. local or limited in application) or ambigious, and most of all, if it is not easy to see its connection to the Great Partisan Debate, than that issue will whither on the vine.

And I still think this explains a lot of it. But to not have any of the A-list blogs commenting on yesterday's demonstration and the situation in Jena TODAY, after the demonstration and the national media coverage paid to it has me completely baffled.

A secondary but related feature of the Jena case that gives it the blogosphere kiss of death is its criminal justice component. Criminal justice issues, inequality in sentencing, the Drug War, prison conditions, AIDS in prison, prison rape and violence, gangs in prison, rehabilitation and especially, the racial intercept of all these issues, are the political black hole (no pun intended but it may apply anyway) of national politics. Hence, the A-list of white bloggers consumed with national issues, national personalities, and the Great Partisan Debate, shy away from criminal justice issues in the states and localities (unless the criminal case is in Washington, DC and involves administration officials).

For all our talk about how myopic and self indulgent the Washington Beltway class is, most of us bloggers are not much better or different in regards to things taking place in the lives of regular people outside of major metropolitan areas and to the culture and vibes of truly alternative media and community fronts (i.e black radio).

All I can say today is that the White Out regarding Jena is simply astounding. I'm embarassed.

Post Script

I have to say that Al Sharpton had a good one at yesterday's demonstration. He said (I'm paraphrasing from what I heard him say from this morning's Democracy Now broadcast).

"The first Civil Rights struggle was against Jim Crow. Today's Civil Right's struggle is against James Crow, Jr. Esq. The first Civil Right's struggle was about a seat on the bus. Today's Civil Right's struggle is about our seat in the courtroom."

Post Script II

Those A-listers who have briefly raised the subject of the Jena 6 have done so in the context of--wait for it--the statements about the Jena released by the Democratic presidential candidates. This is that What Are You Doing For The Great Partisan Debate? angle I discussed above. See the 7th bulleted item in this Daily Kos post for an example of the same.

Post Script III

I think the left blogosphere has been silent on this matter due in no small part to the fact we are without the late, great Steve Gilliard. It's times like these when his presence is most missed. Steve brought more of a real world connection to the reality based blogosphere.

Post Script IV

The Daily Kos and FireDogLake (in an ambigously worded post-title) now have frontpage posts up about Jena.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Jena 6

There hasn't been much left-blogosphere attention to this case, so far. Pandagon's Pam Spaulding has written about it. But I haven' t seen it blogged about anywhere else. I first heard about it at least a month ago on Democracy Now.

The details still seem a little fuzzy to me. First example, the fight at the school in which six black kids supposedly assaulted one white kid. There was a report that a racial epithet started the fight, but that, again, is a little unclear. As is whether anyone else was involved, and whether the attack was pre-meditated (among the charges against the Six was Conspiracy, which would imply pre-meditation).

And then, as Democracy Now reported, there was the District Attorney coming to the campus amidst the initial White Tree crisis and threatening the students:

The story of the Jena Six began at the start of the school year last year, when an African American student asked at a school assembly if he could sit down under a schoolyard tree unofficially reserved for white students. The next morning, three nooses were hanging from the tree's broad, leafy branches. African American students protested, gathering under the tree. Soon after, the district attorney, Reed Walters, came to the school with the police, threatening, “I could end your lives with the stroke of a pen.”

Who, or which students, were the target of this statement from the DA? All of them? The black students only? Those who hung the nooses? It is unclear what the full context of the DA''s remark was.

But in any event, the extent of the charges (Conspiracy, Second Degree Attempted Murder) and the possible sentences call to mind the abuses behind the drug arrests in Tulia, Texas a few years ago.

It's also distressing and a bit curious to read, as I did today, that the first convicted defendent, Mychal Bell, has had his conviction tossed out because Bell was tried as an adult instead of as a child. But Bell is still in jail, unable to raise the $90,000 for bail. With all the volunteers and protesters in Jena today, one would hope that they could pass the hat around, if it is as simple as that.

Fortunately, with thousands of protesters converging on Jena, the national media is finally beginning to pay attention. Hopefully we will learn more details about the charges against the 6 and if, as seems apparent, the charges are excessive, the teens will have their charges reduced or be released.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What I'm Reading

Seizing Destiny: How America Grew from Sea to Shining Sea, by Richard Kluger

The Terror Presidency by Jack Goldsmith

Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy, by Charlie Savage

The first of these is a work of history, basically describing the settlement of America and the spread of the colonies and territories across the continent. It is not a breezy read; it requires careful attention. But it is written very eloquently and is very picturesque in its prose.

The Terror Presidency is by the former head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush Administration from 2003 to 2004. The author is a small-c conservative, supportive of greater presidential prerogatives in the war on terror but an opponent of warrant-less surveillance and of the wholesale disregarding of the Geneva conventions. A more personal, easy to read book but well balanced in its writing and unlike many first hand accounts, well structured and light on the self-indulgence.

Takeover is by Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe who was among the first to write about the Bush Administration's use of "signing statements" and other dimensions of the "unitary executive theory" the administration employed in the aftermath of 911 to respond to the crises of the day but also in strategic response to ideas first formulated by, among others, Dick Cheney, first during his stint as President Ford's Chief of Staff and later, as a congressman and ranking House Republican on the joint Iran-Contra committee. From the later post, Cheney bonded with a Republican legislative aid, David Addington, and went on to issue a minority report dissenting from the full Iran Contra committee's scolding of the Reagan White House. The Cheney minority used the unitary executive theory concocted by Ed Meese's Federalist Society staffed Justice Department to argue that the White House was not obligated to follow or obey the Boland Amendment which had prohibited aid to the Contras. Not all of Cheney's Republican colleagues signed on to his minority report. The leading Senate Republican on the committee, New Hampshire's Warren Rudman signed the majority report and ridiculed the radicalism of the minority report and, presumably, its authors. Very riveting stuff.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Republicans are Filibustering Everything

I know this isn't new or news, but I wonder when our "liberal" media will begin to point this out.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Our "Liberal" Washington Post Sunday Outlook Section

Top left hand corner op-ed by David Broder
Lindsey Graham's Realism
-- Are you kidding me? Nah, I didn't read this one.

Top dead center op-ed by Henry Kissinger
The Disaster of Hasty Withdrawal
-- What, again? Nah, I didn't read this one either. Would you?

Top right hand corner op-ed by David Ignatius
Cooling the Clash with Iran
-- This title sounds more promising, but knowing Ignatius' columns, I opted out of this op-ed, too.

Below the fold op-ed by Jim Hoagland
From Hope to Fear in Iraq
-- I did briefly skim this one, but only for the purposes of wrapping up this post. Didn't do wonders for me.