May 11, 2008
Policy summit brings together diverse progressive groups
LANSING -- Only the Second Annual Michigan Policy Conference, sponsored by the Michigan Prospect, could bring so many diverse progressive groups together under one roof.
More than 600 people gathered at the Lansing Center for an all-day summit to work toward some common goals. The day featured breakout sessions, skills workshops and speakers, like author and journalist Amy Goodman and author and humorist Jim Hightower. The summit centered on three policy areas: health care, the environment and education. The summit brought together diverse groups representing labor unions, the environment, civil rights, LBGT, health care and peace groups.
“The good news is we are here,” said Lynn Jondahl, Executive Director of the Michigan Prospect. “The bad news is we are facing a battle of every front.”
The mission of the Michigan Prospect is to connect citizens and government in order to advance a just and humane democratic society.
U.S. Sen. Carl Levin was also on hand, and he fired up the attendees. He said one of the goals in turning the nation's and state’s economy around is to address the $100 billon the U.S. is losing to companies who move offshore just to avid paying taxes.
“The Republicans are going to say you are raising taxes,” he said. “We are not raising taxes; we are enforcing the tax laws for people who are avoiding their fair share of taxes.”
The Iraq occupation is sucking billons of dollars that is increasing the budget deficit and could be used to address problems the country is facing.
“$600 billon is has gone to a war we never should have been in,” Levin said. “The only way to end that war is to elect a Democrat in November.”
Goodman is an author and the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, an independent national, daily, award-winning news program that airs on more than 700 radio and television stations in North America.
Goodman took the mainstream media to task for their failure to do its job in the lead up to the Iraq war and to look closer at the manufactured evidence the Bush Administration used to plunge the country into war. She said the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) did a study of the three network news programs in the three months leading up to the invasion, and it found 393 interviews were held about the war, but only three were with people who questioned or were against the war.
“That is no longer the mainstream media,” she said. “This is the corporate media that was beating the drum for war. We need the full diversity of opinion.”
Goodman said outlets like Democracy Now and blogs are the independent media voices. She said the so-called mainstream media is still not doing its job after it was reveled the media did not do its job looking at the manufactured evidence in the lead up to the invasion. She said one-third of the Iraq and Afghanistan vets who are not killed or wounded are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The media has also not reported on the 120 suicides a week.
She cited the mainstream media’s lack of coverage of Winter Solider, recently held in Maryland over four-days sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War. It was modeled after the historic Winter Solider held in Detroit in 1971. It featured testimony from Iraq and Afghan vets, but the only media attention it got was a small mention in the Washington Post.
“We rushed down there to get our cameras in place because we knew this was not the know-nothing political pundits, this was the men and women who fought the war,” Goodman said. “We needn’t have worried; there was no other media there.”
Goodman also said the media has not done its job reporting on the Bush Administration’s torture policy. Goodman congratulated U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, on its vote to subpoena Vice President Cheney's chief of staff David Addington to testify about his role in the torture scandal.
“We are supposed to be a model of behavior to the world,” she said. “America is better than that.”