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Before the Plamegate Deluge:  Honoring Our Journalistic Heroes

By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers



A political and media onslaught is about to be unleashed with the indictments
of a whole host of key White House officials (including you-know-who) caught
up in the Plamegate coverup. The unraveling of this potentially treasonous
scandal -- which began with the outing, for political reasons, of a covert CIA
officer -- could well provide the tipping point that will allow the Democrats to
retake the House in the next election, initiate Congressional investigations
of Bush Administration crimes, and possibly even pass an impeachment
resolution.

So, before all the craziness begins, it might be useful to remind ourselves
how far we've come in the battle to remove the extremists who currently rule so
recklessly and incompetently in our names. And how the work we've all been
doing in the political trenches, unearthing the corruption and incompetence and
dangerous initiatives of the Bush Administration, has helped weaken that crowd
of crooks and liars to the point where impeachment is a serious possibility.
Of course, the Republicans these days --  with their never-ending exploding
scandals and bare-knuckles infighting -- are not doing such a bad job destroying
themselves without our help.

We internet progressives deal so often with the negative high crimes and
misdemeanors of the Administration, and with the cluelessness and cowardice of the
ostensible Democratic opposition, that it's easy to be swept totally into
that Bush shadow world and lose sight of the strength and powers at our command,
and the hope they represent.

So I'd like today to recognize the heroes of our battle, who, ultimately, are
helping to lead our country to a restoration of Constitutional rule and the
banishment of the worst of the Bush&Co. miscreants either to political exile
or, for a good many of the worst participants, to jail.

HERO #1: A COURAGEOUS U.S. SENATOR

But first some history:

Four-plus years ago, in the wake of the Supreme Court's 5-4 installation of
Bush into the White House, it looked as if we progressives and traditional
Republicans were in for total defeat. The Bush neo-cons and power mongers who had
hijacked the Republican Party controlled the House, the Senate (by one vote),
the Executive Branch, and most of the corporate mass-media.

But then a courageous U.S. Senator, Jim Jeffords of Vermont, Hero#1, stepped
forward to resign from the Republican caucus and, as an Independent, side most
of the time with the Democrats, giving them a one-vote majority in the
Senate. The Rove/Cheney governing plan was thrown badly off-balance, and had unusual
difficulty getting its regressive agenda passed.

That situation would have maintained itself for the rest of Bush's term
except that 9/11 happened, and deadly anthrax was unleashed into the halls of
Congress (directed mostly, let us not forget, at Democrat leaders). Suddenly,
thanks to al-Qaida and whoever distributed the anthrax, the Bush program went
zipping through a frightened Congress, with barely any serious opposition.

Certainly no questions were asked about why the Bush Administration was so
ill-prepared for the terror attacks even though they had received explicit
warnings about them in the weeks and days prior to 9/11. No Democrat politicians
wanted to risk being tarred with the epithets "soft on terrorism," or
"unpatriotic" for not supporting the president during "wartime."

When more Bush Republicans were elected, tipping the Senate back into GOP
hands, the Democrats became even more timid and disorganized. And so, devoid of a
questioning political opposition and a mass-media willing to dig for answers,
it fell to others to try to keep the flame of liberty (and realistic
thinking) burning. By and large, this task was taken up by websites and their writers
and editors on the internet, this generation's "alternative press."

THE HONOR ROLL OF COLUMNISTS

Despite the overwhelming pro-Bush fawning of the corporate media, radio
talk-shows, newspapers, broadcast networks, cable TV "news" shows and pundits, a
relative handful of writers remain willing to speak truth to power in the
mainstream outlets. Their courage and perspicacity shine like beacons in an
otherwise dark world of pseudo-journalism in the current era, even when their own
editorial pages cave regularly to Bush&Co.

The columnist Honor Roll includes: Paul Krugman, Bob Herbert, Frank Rich and
Maureen Dowd, for example, at the New York Times; E.J. Dionne Jr., Eugene
Robinson, Harold Meyerson, Dan Froomkin, at the Washington Post; Tom Oliphant,
Robert Kuttner, James Carroll and Derrick Z. Jackson at the Boston Globe; Seymour
Hersh and Hendrick Hertzberg at The New Yorker; Robert Scheer at the Los
Angeles Times; Jay Bookman and Cynthia Tucker at the Atlanta Constitution-Journal;
Marie Coco at Newsday; Jon Carroll, Mark Morford and David Lazarus at the San
Francisco Chronicle; Joe Conason of the New York Observer; Robyn Blumner of
the St. Petersburg Times; Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay at Knight Ridder;
the incomparable Molly Ivins in syndicated release, the irrespressible veteran
White House correspondent Helen Thomas and a few others. Plus, on the
broadcast waves, Air America, a few lonely liberal radio talk-show hosts around the
country, plus Keith Olbermann, virtually the lone cable-TV pundit willing to
ask penetrating questions about Bush policy.

One is tempted to say that these few prestigious journalists gave supportive
courage to those outside the mainstream media also to speak truth to power,
but I think it probably was the other way around -- or perhaps a serendipitous
joint venture in standing tall. The so-called "fringe" journalists and
commentators on the internet and elsewhere have never wavered in keeping the feet of
the powerful next to the fires they had set with their determined research and
incendiary critical analysis. In many cases, these internet journalists and
bloggers even forced mainstream editors to cover political stories they had
shied away from.

THE PROGRESSIVE CYBERSPHERE

When so many millions of readers had learned of important stories via the
internet writers and websites and blogs, but hadn't run across them in their
local papers or on their nightly TV news, it behooved mainstream editors to start
paying attention and not looking totally silly or "bought off" by ignoring
those same stories.

Here are some of the leading progressive websites that deserve our plaudits
for fighting the good patriotic fight for so long: AmericanPolitics.com,
AlterNet.org, AntiWar.com, BushWatch.com, BuzzFlash.com, CommonDreams.org,
Consortium News.com, CounterPunch.org, CrisisPapers.org, DemocraticUnderground.com,
Democrats.com, DemocracyNow.org, HuffingtonPost.com, Independent-Media.TV,
JuanCole.com, MakeThemAccountable.com, MediaMatters.org, MotherJones.com,
OnlineJournal.com, OpEdNews.com, OldAmericanCentury.org, Salon.com, Scoop.co.nz,
SmirkingChimp.com, TheAmericanProspect.org, TheNation.com, Progressive.org,
TomPaine.com, Truthout.com, WorkingforChange.org, ZNet.org, et al. (For a fuller
listing, see ##The Dissenting Internet). www.crisispapers.org/features /internet.htm

But the presence of daring websites would mean little without an immense
corps of fine researchers, columnists and bloggers willing to put their
reputations, and in some cases careers, on the line, usually for little or no
compensation. Thankfully, the liberal/progressive left and libertarian/traditional
conservatives are numerous and unafraid -- doing the work the opposition Democrats
should be doing -- even in the presence of McCarthyite threats from Bush&Co.
and their rabid supporters.

HONOR ROLL OF ANALYSTS & BLOGGERS

Here, in random order, are just a few of these regularly producing writers
who keep alive hope and intelligent resistance; this Honor Roll includes:
Arianna Huffington, Sidney Blumenthal, John W. Dean, Jonathan Turley, Bill Moyers,
Evelyn Pringle, Greg Palast, Howard Zinn, Amy Goodman, Ray McGovern, Naomi
Klein, David Podvin, Scott Ritter, Robert Parry, Jim Hightower, Ralph Nader, Karen
Kwiatkowski, Jason Leopold, Georgie Anne Geyer, Paul Craig Roberts, Chalmers
Johnson, David Swanson, Tom Engelhardt, Bill Van Auken, David Lindorff, Alex
Cockburn, Jim Lobe, Ted Rall, Elaine Cassell, Thom Hartmann, Gary Leupp,
Jennifer Von Bergen, Bob Fertik, David Corn, Ted Kahl, Will Pitt, Jeff St. Clair,
Rob Kall, Ivan Eland, Norman Solomon, Paul Lukasiak, et al. (At the risk of
seeming self-serving, I would think that Ernest Partridge and Bernard Weiner might
well be included in that list.)

In a separate category I put the professional bloggers, those who walk the
daily news tightrope, instantaneously trying to figure out what it all means,
and thus helping to guide us in the hunt for what's important. They shine bright
light into the dark caves of ignorance and apathy that is too much of
American politics these days. My favorite blogger heroes include: Josh Marshall at
TalkingPointsMemo, Markos Moulitsas ("Kos") at DailyKos, Duncan Black ("Atrios")
at Eschaton, Billmon at the Whiskey Bar, Juan Cole, Steve Gilliard, Digby at
Hullabaloo, Kevin Drum's Political Animal, the Corrente collective, David
Neiwert at Orcinus, Brad Friedman, David Sirota, James Wolcott, John Aravois, et
al., along with the video/audio compilers at Crooks&Liars.com. (For a much
longer list, with the linked URLs, check out our ##Recommended Blogsites.)
www.crisispapers.org/features /blogs.htm

ELECTORAL FRAUD SPECIALISTS

And then there are the writers who have educated all of us on the
all-important topic of electoral integrity and electoral fraud. It doesn't really matter
how correct our analyses are, and how much activism we can generate, if the
voting tabulations remain easy to manipulate and corrupt, which is the case
today and was the case in 2004, 2002 and 2000. American democracy owes an enormous
debt of gratitude to the groundbreakers in this field: Bev Harris and the
late Andy Stephenson of Black Box Voting, Mark Crispin Miller, Greg Palast,
Alastair Thompson at New Zealand's Scoop website, and such researchers and writers
as Lynn Landes, Rebecca Mercuri, Bob Fitzrakis, Harvey Wasserman, Steven
Rosenfeld, Steven Freeman, Pokey Anderson, Ernest Partridge, Steven Hill, Kim
Zetter and others.

One must not neglect the progressive online activist organizations that have
used the internet so successfully for organizing and raising funds, such as
MoveOn, True Majority, AfterDowningStreet, Codepink, and the like. (For a fuller
listing, check out the ##Activists' Page).
www.crisispapers.org/features /activist.htm

And, finally, though this article is concentrating mainly on U.S. writers and
editors and websites, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the vital online
contributions of non-Americans who help to educate us, and often are the first
to discuss the dirty little secrets of the Bush Administration. Such as: the
Guardian and Independent and Times Online in the U.K., Scoop in New Zealand,
Outlook India in India, and such writers as Robert Fisk, John Pilger, George
Monbiot, Julian Borger, Andrew Gumbel, in the UK, Arundhati Roy in India, Salam
Pax and Riverbend in Iraq, Eric Margolis and Linda McQuaig in Canada, William
Pfaff in France, et al.

These lists of names could have gone on much longer, and no doubt I've
inadvertently left out many of your favorites -- for which lapses I assume you'll be
alerting me, for future updates.

I hope you weren't bored with all those names above, but so often we take for
granted the good, solid, provocative work of those struggling daily in the
fields of journalism and commentary, especially those who match our values.
Their contributions become our daily political wallpaper, so to speak. But it's
difficult, dangerous work, I can assure you, and all of those listed here, and
many of those omitted, are true patriots and heroes in the struggle we're all
in to stop the international imperial slaughter abroad, and the march toward a
militarist police-state at home -- and, in so doing, to help rescue the moral
soul of America. #

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

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., was a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle
for 19 years, an editor of the "alternative-press" Northwest Passage in
Washington State in the '60s and early-'70s, and currently is co-editor of The Crisis
Papers (www.crisispapers.org). Send comments to >>crisispapers comcast.net

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