Friday, September 07, 2007

Project Censored: self-congratulation time

Every year the SF Bay Guardian does the Project Censored thing, listing supposedly important stories not covered in the mainstream media. But this is just another occasion for self-congratulation by the city's tribune of the political left.

And much of this stuff is piffle. The Guardian cites the danger to habeas corpus as an important story neglected by the mainstream media. True, this is a real danger if you're accused of being a terrorist. But the Guardian cites blogger Robert Parry, who insists that a small alteration in the text of the Military Commissions Act means that the right of habeas corpus no longer exists in the US. The language was changed from "alien unlawful enemy combatant" to "any person subject to this chapter." That this is on the books doesn't mean that it will ever be applied to anyone, since there are a lot of dumb laws on the books that are never enforced.

Another story we're supposed to be alarmed about is an obscure section of the Military Commissions Act: "Tucked away in the deeper recesses of that act, section 1076 allows the president to declare a public emergency and dispatch federal troops to take over National Guard units and local police if he determines them unfit for maintaining order." 

Again, this is the sort of thing that might worry a first-year law student. This legalistic interpretation of a few lines in obscure legislation ignores the political realities that drive federal policy. Would a president be likely to invoke section 1076 unnecessarily, given the inevitable political blow-back for him and his party?

This is Chicken Little stuff that's hard to get excited about, as is the usual leftist riffs on the WTO and privatization. What's annoying about the SF Guardian is that Brugmann, Redmond, and Steve Jones seem to think that they have something interesting or significant to say about national and international issues. What San Francisco progressives really need---what the city needs---is consistent, thorough coverage of local issues, not recycled crap from Mother Jones and the internet.

In the dim recesses of their progressive minds, Brugmann, Redmond, and Jones might understand this. On page 16, there's this, boxed off in the middle of the project censored material: "There are plenty of local stories that the media missed." Included on the list---surprise!---is public power, the Guardian's long-time obsession. 

And there's this: "Gavin Newsom's real record: The daily papers love to talk about polls that show the mayor's popularity (and they love to talk about his personal life), but nobody's looking at his failure to fulfill many of his original promises." This is a better idea for a story than the canned Project Censored material, but, given the Guardian's sketchy record on local issues, one doubts their ability to do a proper job of evaluating Newsom's first term.

Even more annoying: "The Attack of the Highrises: The mainstream media reported with glee on the proposals for giant new towers at the Transbay Terminal, but failed to mention that at least 10 more giant towers are already in the works." 

Where has the Guardian been for the last four years, while the Planning Dept.---with the help of our "progressive" board of supervisors, including, in particular, Chris Daly and Aaron Peskin---green-lighted the Rincon Hill highrises and the Market/Octavia Plan, which calls for highrises in the Market/Van Ness area? They've been MIA, just like they've been on homelessness and gun violence (Even the SF Weekly had a thoughtful story on the City Attorney's approach to the latter recently).

Here's a short list of important city issues the Bay Guardian has failed to cover adequately: homelessness, gun violence, the Bicycle Plan and the city's anti-car jihad, traffic in the city in general, and housing, which includes the highrise issue, since these skyline-desecrating buildings are for housing, not the office highrises the Guardian fought against successfully a generation ago.

In short, the Guardian seems too tired and ideology-bound to even try to do any in-depth reporting about important city issues, even as the despised Chronicle features a fine series on homelessness by Kevin Fagan, and C.W. Nevius points out that the homeless are occupying and defiling Golden Gate Park.

How is the Guardian covering/responding to Nevius's Golden Gate Park stories? With a picture of a hipped-out young man---backward baseball cap and obligatory goatee---picketing the SF Chronicle. He's holding a sign that reads, "Stop the hate speech against poor people." The Guardian's caption: "Eli Hernandez of the Coalition on Homelessness helps lead a protest in front of the San Francisco Chronicle on Aug. 31. The protesters argued that the daily paper has been unfairly attacking homeless people in its crusade to clean up Golden Gate Park."

Well, is the Chronicle "unfairly attacking homeless people" or not? Does the Guardian think people should be living in the park? What should city government do to address the problem? You won't find any analysis or alternative proposals in the Guardian, just the picture with the pseudo-objective caption and a crude guest editorial---by one of the founders of Poor magazine---that accuses Nevius of writing "hit pieces that demonize and lie about the poor folks surviving in public spaces."

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