Saturday Catchup: Must-reads (and sees) from the recent past

Is America ‘Yearning for Fascism’? by Chris Hedges (TruthDig 2010-03-29). "The Democrats and their liberal apologists are so oblivious to the profound personal and economic despair sweeping through this country that they think offering unemployed people the right to keep their unemployed children on their nonexistent health care policies is a step forward. They think that passing a jobs bill that will give tax credits to corporations is a rational response to an unemployment rate that is, in real terms, close to 20 percent. They think that making ordinary Americans, one in eight of whom depends on food stamps to eat, fork over trillions in taxpayer dollars to pay for the crimes of Wall Street and war is acceptable. They think that the refusal to save the estimated 2.4 million people who will be forced out of their homes by foreclosure this year is justified by the bloodless language of fiscal austerity. The message is clear. Laws do not apply to the power elite. Our government does not work. And the longer we stand by and do nothing, the longer we refuse to embrace and recognize the legitimate rage of the working class, the faster we will see our anemic democracy die."

On this week's 42nd anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination, two talented lawyers who've dedicated their careers to fighting inequality join Bill Moyers to examine justice and injustice in America after 42 years of struggle. Watch Bill Moyers interview with Bryan Stevenson and Michelle Alexander. A transcript of the interview. Bill Moyers essay on economic justice (Bill Moyers Journal 2010-04-02). Also: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Economic Dream Still Unfulfilled, 42 Years Later by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship (Salon 2010-04-02)and We Still Don’t Hear Him by Bob Herbert (New York Times 2010-04-02).

The Inhumanity of War by Doug Bandow, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute (Huntington Post 2010-04-03). Constant warfare is good for America and boon to the world. Not.

Nearly six months ago, in a must-read piece in The New Yorker, Jane Mayer pondered the risks of the C.I.A.’s covert drone program (The Predator War 2009-10-26), Obama's ramping up of the terror bombing in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The situation has only become more dire in the months since; as with the torture of prisoners, the debate over the indiscriminately murderous drones has devolved into an argument over how far we can go without committing acts that are actually indictable: see, Drone Attacks Are Legit Self-Defense, Says State Dept. Lawyer by Nathan Hodge (Danger Room 2010-03-26) and The Legal And Moral Issues Of Drone Use (NPR 2010-03-30) with Peter Bergen, Amitai Etzioni and Philip Alston.

Will the Pentagon send surveillance drones and other military support to the Somali government for its offensive against al-Qaida-linked insurgents, as the Associated Press reports? Perhaps you should ask your members of Congress.

Newsweek calls Afghanistan’s police force a ”$6 billion fiasco” that could cost us the war. Nation building is a risky business; no wonder presidential candidates promise not to do it.

"A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the National Security Agency’s program of surveillance without warrants was illegal, rejecting the Obama administration’s effort to keep shrouded in secrecy one of the most disputed counterterrorism policies of former President George W. Bush." By Charlie Savage and James Risen (New York Times 2010-03-31).

The event itself was insignificant, of course, especially by comparison to, say, decades of priestly diddling of deaf children, but the media coverage was characteristically abysmal:

But then, as so often before, Jon Stewart put it all in perspective for you:
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And speaking of the important role of late night comedians in our national dialog,  David Letterman's interview of Tea Party member Pam Stout on the Late Show was a "quietly remarkable piece of television," according to Entertainment Weekly's tv critic Ken Tucker.

Catch Henry Farrell and Daniel Drezner's Fun for the Whole Family episode on BloggingHeads -- will health care reform give Obama a foreign policy boost?; Obama and Netanyahu, less than the best of pals; The Frumble in the Jungle; can conservative intellectuals ride the Tea Party tiger?; the Catholic Church’s systemic failure; is the Greek financial crisis just the tip of the iceberg?:

Speaking of the Frumble in the Jungle, Carl Bloice takes on The Myth of the Sensible Center (Black Commentator 2010-04-01). Left, Right and Center become meaningless anyway when the central ideologies controlling our politics, corporatism and militarism, are forbidden subjects.

The Fed in Hot Water by Robert Reich (TalkingPointsMemo 2010-0402). Tim Geithner made secret, unregulated, probably illegal payouts of Bear Stearns and AIG worth tens of billions in public dollars months before Congress authorized taxpayer bailout of the financial community. Also, watch Robert Reich on ABC's This Week: The Obama Administration's Approach To Financial Reform Will Do 'Nothing' To Change Wall Street (Huntington Post 010-04-04).

To battle Wall Street, Obama should channel Teddy Roosevelt by Simon Johnson and James Kwak (The Washington Post 2010-04-04). Like that's going to happen.

And Tepid Reforms Demand that Progressives Mobilize by Katrina vanden Heuvel (Washington Post 2010-03-30).

US GAO releases 2010 Assessments of Selected Weapons Programs (2010-03-30), one- or two-page assessments of 70 weapon programs, most found wanting against "best practices" criteria.

Music video of the week is from a tribute to Skip Spence's legendary Oar (full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes for the second Moby Grape album), with a wild guitar solo by Wilco's Nels Cline:

Women in Their 90'S Who Make A Difference Today by Joan Wile (AfterDowningStreet 2010-04-03). My 94-year-old mother, having lent a hand in the battle to permit wind farms in New England, now wants take on the war in Afghanistan. "I think you should leave the world a little better than you found it," she says.

It took a while for the corporations to lay their cold dead hands fully on the the switches of mass media access after the terrifying (to them) social, intellectual and artistic cacophony of the 60s. Throughout the 70s and 80s, though, brief flashes of anarchy and creativity could still sneak past the cultural police lines, as in this energetic Black Leather Monster by punk rockers Wendy O. Williams and The Plasmatics on “Solid Gold,“ the pop hits countdown that usually featured lipsyncing bubblegum bands and eroto-aerobic dance routines.

A Critic's Place, Thumb and All is a thoughtful meditation on the future of arts criticism by Times film critic A.O.Scott (New York Times 2010-03-30).

Finally, a song much abused by karaoke singers is given its most disturbing reading ever:

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