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Oct 112010

We’re just three weeks and a day away from election day.  I know, midterms don’t excite the masses, and the Dems aren’t exciting the base.  But the old adage of voting for the lesser of two evils should be on everyone’s lips today.

I’m in the process of moving in with my boyfriend who lives in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District.  This place drives home the meaning of that statement.  I’m no fan of Ron Klein‘s… but not for the reasons the Republicans are telling me not to vote for him.  Klein is just too damned conservative for me.  However, one look at his opponent Alan West, and I’m ready to do all I can do to get Klein re-elected.

In case you’d like to learn a bit more about the candidates who are in the national spotlight today because both President Obama and Speaker-Wannabe Boehner will be in town campaigning for Klein and West, respectively, take a few minutes to watch the televised “debate” they did yesterday, and figure out which is the lesser of two evils.  By the way, you get the extra added bonus of seeing a “debate” between the candidates from Florida’s 25th Congressional district too: the wonderful Joe Garcia and the truly heinous David Rivera.

On today’s show, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling which basically says corporations are people and, as such, are entitled to First Amendment protection under the Constitution.  Of course, if corporations are people, they should be able to run for office, right?  So says Murray Hill Inc, who has launched a  campaign.  This morning, I spoke with their “designated human” Eric Hensel, about their candidacy.

I also reached out to Eric Boehlert of Media Matters, after receiving this lovely email this morning:

Media Matters releases explosive interview showing Glenn Beck’s influence on man who planned to kill people at Tides Foundation

Washington, DC – Today, nearly three months after Byron Williams was arrested on his way to kill “people of importance at the Tides Foundation and ACLU,” Media Matters for America released “Progressive Hunter,” a report from journalist John Hamilton, who spoke with Williams at the California jail where he currently awaits trial. In his interviews with Hamilton, Williams described Beck as “a schoolteacher” and said “it was the things [Beck] exposed that blew my mind.”

WATCH the video and READ the entire story

Excerpts from the interviews reveal the story of a man driven over the edge by conspiracy theories and extremist views promoted by media personalities like Beck, Michael Savage, David Horowitz, and Alex Jones.


And since it’s Monday, I spoke with Nicole Belle of Crooks and Liars, for our Fools on the Hill segment…

There are legitimate news stories and then there are media narratives.  News stories generally require journalism and investigation and can be costly.  News editors don’t like those news stories.  It’s far more cost-efficient to create media narratives that can be endlessly spun and reworked by a variety of bobbleheads on the 24 hour cable stations.   They don’t have to necessarily be true, but they make it much easier to fill 24 hours of content.

Crooks and Liars have been looking at these media narratives for six years now.  We try to shine light on them, debunk them or put them into context.  And we have a whole lot of false narratives we’re focusing on this Sunday.

First up is Chris Matthews.  Matthews has always had a hard time sublimating his love of pure politics with reality, but his question to his panel was just bizarre:

According to Tweety, the resultant national nostalgia brought upon by the release of George W. Bush’s new memoirs, Decision Points, will build a wave that will ride Jeb Bush into the White House.  Seriously, I don’t know what Tweety is smoking, but in what parallel dimension is a book full of lies and spins for what is arguably the worst presidency in the history of the country going to make the American people wistful for another Bush in office?

And one of the biggest reasons that no one should wish another Bush presidency was on Fox News Sunday.  Karl Rove was feeling quite tetchy over the fact that Obama called him out for his political group (with Ed Gillespie) that is funneling millions of dollars from undisclosed donors into Republican campaigns and was completely disingenuous in his defense.  In true neo-con Freudian fashion, Rove accuses President Obama of something that he himself is no doubt guilty of: having an enemies list.

This Week invited Connecticut Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon on to discuss her candidacy and her past as an executive with the WWF.  One of the things that Christiane Amanpour brought up is the sexism within the WWF, asking her if she would do anything to curtail such sexist acts as asking a woman to get on all fours and bark like a dog.

All I can say is that we have fallen afar from the traditional campaign questions when BDSM questions are considered acceptable.

There’s a funny meta moment to the Mark Kirk/Alexi Giannoulias debate on Meet the Press.  The Kirk campaign and the NRSC were so confident that Kirk would dominate the discussion that they put out a press release crowing about Kirk’s performance and that Giannoulias’ performance highlighted how not ready he was for office.  Only problem?  They put it out before the show was filmed.

They clearly didn’t count on David Gregory to actually do his job and confront Kirk about his 180 degree turn on deficit spending.  I gotta say, it doesn’t sound to me that this is one of Kirk’s greatest moments, despite the press release.

Finally, we get to Joe Klein.  On assignment for Time Magazine, Klein ventured out of the Beltway confines to talk to voters.  Guess what he found?  People in this country don’t really care about what the media finds fascinating.  This is a profound “come to Jesus” moment for Klein, tampered somewhat by the pursed lips and condescension of Peggy Noonan.

As I wrote:

While Noonan is eager to keep her self-appointed title of grand doyenne of the fashionable Republican set, the truth lies right there in Klein’s reporting, as much as he could grasp that differed from his own media bias. What they report on is not of concern to most Americans. We aren’t focusing on socialism, Marxism, deficit spending, tea parties and the like. They don’t impact most Americans for as much as they media love to discuss them. We’re not thinking about who will be the Vice Presidential running mate for Obama in 2012 or which of the myriad of politicos will be the Republican challenger. We don’t care, no matter how many times the media tries to make us care.

We ARE angry. We are feeling unstable, on dangerous ground and nervous about the future. But much of that anger also comes from feeling that the media isn’t listening to us or caring about our concerns. How many of those 99ers stressing about falling off the unemployment rolls would like to see a little socialism in this country to help them as they struggle with years of being unable to find a job? How many are wondering how much longer we’re going to send jobs to China only to have products returned to us filled with poisons or heavy metals that could kill us? How many parents are wondering how many deployments their child will have to go through (one of the service members in this week’s In Memoriam post has been on TWELVE deployments) before they can go home and attempt a semblance of a normal life again?

But these aren’t the stories that we see on Sundays, or any other day of the Washington news cycle. And Joe Klein just got a taste of it…what will it take to wake up more of them?

Oct 042010

I think I’m the happiest unemployed radio personality around.  I regularly get to guest host The Randi Rhodes Show.  And today I got to fill  in for Thom Hartmann!

Seriously, next to having my own show again, nothing could be better.

Thom is in the middle of a move to Washington DC, but late last night they realized that the new studio wouldn’t be ready for today’s show. So, I awoke this morning to an email asking if I was available.  Duh!

So, after my show (and after pulling out an old interview with Ralph Nader to run during the second hour so I could prep and get the technical issues sorted out), I segued into Thom’s show.

My first guest was Thom Hartmann himself. He told us about the reasons for his move from Portand to DC, and his experience Saturday at the One Nation Working Together rally.

My favorite activist, David Swanson, gave us his impression of Saturday’s event as well.  Later on in the show, we got a call from Rev. Jesse Jackson who, apparently, had been listening and wanted to thank us for taking about the event.

Crooks and Liars’ Nicole Belle joined me — a little later than we usually do it on Mondays — for our “Fools on the Hill” segment, deconstructing the Sunday talking head shows.  Here are her comments and links to the segments we talked about:

First, we’ll go to Rand Paul and Jack Conway debating on Fox News Sunday.  Paul’s campaign people have been very careful to limit his air time after several disastrous appearances that showed just how extreme his views are.

He was fairly careful on the show.  He did claim that he supported raising the age of Social Security eligibility if he’s elected.

To be sure, that is one way to address Social Security.  Of course, it’s not the smartest way, which is to remove the cap entirely or to prevent Congress from raiding SSI to pay for spending elsewhere, either of which would ensure SSI’s solvency forever.  But is anyone surprised by the least effective solution being proposed by a Republican?

Sticking with Fox, we had some lovely pearl clutching by the Fox News Watch Panel (their alleged media watchdog show) over Obama’s interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, in which he labeled Fox “opinion media”, much like the Hearst propaganda of the ‘20s and ‘30s.

The golden age of an objective press was a pretty narrow span of time in our history. Before that, you had folks like Hearst who used their newspapers very intentionally to promote their viewpoints. I think Fox is part of that tradition… it is part of the tradition that has a very clear point of view. It’s a point of view that I disagree with… It’s a point of view that is ultimately destructive for the long-term growth of a country that has a vibrant middle class and is competitive in the world.

Listen how Jim Pinkerton conflates the channel with its viewers and claims that the President said that Fox viewers are destructive to the country.  And then because the fallback position is to say, “well, liberals do it too!” he brings up Daniel Schorr, because Schorr wrote a factually accurate report that Goldwater was planning a trip to Germany to see some right wing German fans at a former Hitler retreat.

Rich Lowry boils it down to a ridiculous syllogism of “liberals hate Fox. Obama is a liberal, ergo he hates Fox”.  It’s not a propaganda channel, we just have an irrational hatred of it.

And as long as we’re on media navel-gazing, Chris Matthews and his panel looked at the advent of the new media in politics. Not surprisingly, they missed the picture altogether.  Matthews traces the rise of the new media with Drudge during the Clinton years.  They acknowledge that traditional media knew about the Lewinsky story but held on to it because the story had not been vetted.  But once Drudge broke that dam, the traditional media didn’t get taken over by the new media, they abdicated their roles to basically emulate new media.  Vetting went out the window to be able to scoop the competition.  The directive to be fair was given up for opinion media.  In short, the traditional media became bloggers.   It’s hard to hear on the audio, but Dan Rather gives a tentative warning about how the new media can also send out lynch mobs to destroy the credibility of reporters  or shape the narrative of the story and get away with it, something that Tweety and John Harris of Politico completely don’t pick up on.

And now to someone who actually does get it: Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Bernie told  Bob Schieffer that Republicans are more interested in gaining power than helping the country. Now while that rates a big “duh” from us, Bob Schieffer just can’t quite believe that Sanders would be that blunt.

And then finally, we come to This Week. As in past weeks, Christiane Amanpour decided to go against the headline of the week and do a more in-depth look at an issue.  Unfortunately, her framing of the issue of choice this week could have been a little more reasonably done.  The chyron for the debate was “Should Americans Fear Islam?” Given the amount of violence being done in this country and the irrational outrage by the likes of Pamela Geller for the Park51 Community Center, I’d say that Muslims have a hell of a lot more to fear here than Americans do of Islam in general.

Billy Graham’s son Franklin appears on the panel to be on the “yes, fear the Muslims” side.  And the surviving parents of 9/11 victims appeared on both sides of the issue.  For a segment titled in such an inflammatory way, it was actually a very good segment and one that everyone should see in its entirety.

And Gotta Laff of The Political Carnival joined in to talk about the story brewing about Marco Rubio and his relationship with health care lobbyist Amber Stoner.

And I got to talk with a bunch of Thom’s listeners.  Today was not only fun, but truly an honor.

Sep 272010

It’s Monday, so that means we get to re-live some of the high and low points from yesterday’s Talking Head shows with Crooks & Liars’ Nicole Belle.  It’s a weekly segment we call “Fools on the Hill.”  Here’s what we’ll hit on today, with links to all the clips, and Nicole’s descriptions of them:

We’re six weeks away from the midterm elections and the media is in full swing determining the narratives that are going to take us through the elections.  It appears that the media wants us to be wildly dissatisfied with Obama and associate his policies with that dissatisfaction.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that Obama isn’t doing enough on his own to engender dissatisfaction, but the media throws out all these ridiculous, irrelevant (and sometimes, completely contradictory) memes to keep reinforcing in the public’s head that they should dislike Obama: he’s too intellectual, he’s not angry enough, he’s got an extremist left agenda, or he’s being too centrist and bipartisan, he’s too ambitious taking on health care, he’s not ambitious enough to take down DADT.  Any way you slice it, they find something wrong with what he’s doing.

Case in point: Chris Matthews wonders why Obama isn’t more like Bill Clinton and really feel our pain.

There’s a lot of disingenuousness to this clip.  First and foremost, it’s an entirely revisionist for Matthews to talk about Clinton this way.   The whole moniker of the “Villagers” originated from the way the Beltway cocktail circuit disdained the Clintons when they came to town, and felt that the Clintons were outsiders not paying proper homage to the society doyennes.  They MOCKED his empathy at the time, calling his “feel your pain” moment smarmy and dishonest.

And the truth is, it’s the Beltway media that doesn’t feel Americans pain.  That’s why they don’t ever question or contextualize Republicans continual spin doctoring to benefit the wealthiest 2% of the population.  And if Barack Obama had bitten his lip and told Velma Hart he did feel her pain, they would have mocked him for that too.

In fact, Chris Matthews is so eager to push out these media narratives that he actually framed a topic on his show that no one—but no one—thinks is a realistic possibility:  could the economy stay so bad and his popularity continued to drop that Obama decided to not run in 2012.

Now, no one thought it was a realistic possibility, but Chris Matthews actually got visibly excited when Michael Gerson of WaPo (and also GWB’s former speech writer and member of the WH Iraq Group, so no conflict of interest there) suggested that maybe Hillary could leave the State Department and get herself ready to slip into that 2012 campaign.  Again, it’s the subtext: Obama shouldn’t expect a second term .

Chris Van Hollen went on Meet the Press and actually did a good job saying something that I think the Democrats need to say constantly:  the Republicans’ answer of tax cuts as the be all and end all for all economic woes is just utter nonsense.

That’s the thing that just drives me nuts: if tax cuts were that great a stimuli in creating jobs and improving the economy, we wouldn’t be in the shape we’re in.   The Republicans have done a good job of creating these bumper sticker sayings in lieu of sound economic theories.  They sound good superficially, but a simple look at the economic history of this country shows that the opposite of what they say is true.   If you look at it historically, if you RAISE taxes on the wealthy, they actually do a better job of stimulating the economy and creating jobs, because they redirect income back into their companies rather than pay it in taxes.

Pence also made a big show about worrying about the deficit and talking about fiscal responsibility, but even after David Gregory hilarious used Jon Stewart to make the point that the Republicans’ laughable Pledge to America is just a rehash of the same old Republican policies that the American people have rejected.

The other ‘inside baseball’ thing about Pence to keep an eye on is his own political ambitions.  It’s not a secret in Washington that he would like to be the Speaker of the House should the Republicans retake the majority, but that would mean taking out John Boehner as the presumptive Speaker.  Now I can’t prove this and I would not stake anything on this, but my understanding is that the discussion of an affair between John Boehner and a lobbyist (that blogger Mike Stark asked him about and got a strange non-denial) was initially leaked by a fellow Republican and several Washington aides I know suspect Pence.

Then there’s Mitch O’Donnell, who appeared on This Week and said some truly bizarre and fact-free assertions that host Christiane Amanpour didn’t even pause at. (It’s a 9 ½ minute clip.  The pertinent part is at around 1:45 and goes to 3:15 or so. )

He calls Social Security and Medicare “unfunded liabilities” which is just crazy talk.  That FICA deduction from your paycheck?  That FUNDS Social Security.

And then finally, CBS Sunday Morning gave a television producer a chance to respond to Ben Stein, who whined this week that it’s just unfair to raise taxes on the wealthy.  Because, you know, other than the money he inherited from his parents, he’s worked for his money.

I love it when grown-ups take charge of the conversation.

Nicole Belle will be with us in the second hour- at around 11:30 ET – following a news update from the Talk Radio News Service.

I’ll start the show with a look at some of the news stories that caught my eye this morning, followed by a visit from Beth Becker and Neal Rauhauser of Progressive PST, who helps candidates via social media and blogs.  They have a great story to tell about fending off a smear campaign on AZ Congressman Raul Grijalva.

Plus, Jim Hightower’s commentary, The Green News Report and the Media Matters Minute.

Check back this afternoon for the podcast!

Sep 202010

So much has happened since we last spoke on Thursday…

President Obama officially named Elizabeth Warren as the person to set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — though not necessarily as the one to run it.  Is he hedging his bets, or just being spineless yet again?  John Nichols of The Nation writes “There Will Be ‘Hell to Pay’ If Elizabeth Warren Doesn’t Have Real Power.”

The Hill reports that Mike Pence was the best  that the attendees of the “Values Voters” summit could come up with for a 2012 Presidential nominee.

And it’s illegal to build sand castles on the beach in Florida.  Funny, no one has ever stopped us from doing there here in Southeast Florida, but I guess if you’re near Pensacola, it’s a big no-no.

We’ll touch on all of those stories today, and more…

**Update… I need a producer! Michael Hirsch is schedule for Wednesday morning, not this morning.  So, tune in Wednesday for this one!*** Michael Hirsh of Newsweek (and soon to be of the National Journal) will be my guest in the first hour. He has a new book out…  Capital Offense: How Washington’s Wise Men Turned America’s Future Over To Wall Street.  And yes, I’ll ask him about Elizabeth Warren, among other things.

After a report from the Talk Radio News Service, we’ll check in with Crooks & LiarsNicole Belle for our weekly Fools on the Hill segment.  Here’s her outline of what we’ll discuss today:

Obviously, Christine O’Donnell was the major topic of discussion for the Sunday shows for a variety of reasons.   First, as a Tea Party, Sarah Palin-endorsed, extremist candidate knocking off a “moderate” incumbent (whatever “moderate” means nowadays) in Mike Castle.  But also as someone who can only be described as the fringiest of the fringe.   How many ultra-conservative Christian evangelical anti-masturbation activists can also claim to have “dabbled” in witchcraft? But for the traditional media, all that can be forgiven, EXCEPT that she pulled a Rand Paul / Sharron Angle and backed out of her scheduled appearances on the Sunday shows a mere 36 hours before.  It may have been a fairly canny move, because instead of appearing on Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday, O’Donnell was discussed on ALL the shows for backing out.

For example, Karl Rove—who has been treading carefully to stay relevant in a Republican Party spiraling out of control—challenged Sarah Palin to come to Delaware to campaign for O’Donnell to prove her bona fides as a kingmaker

Now this is just my opinion, but I think it’s been a hard fall for Karl Rove over the last two years.   To go from being “the architect” of GOP political strategy to being a pushed-aside has been as the Tea Party clamors for and receives more media attention as the flavor du jour has to smart.  I really see this as a petulant calling out of Sarah Palin for usurping his spotlight without actually doing any hard work or being smart at all.

Along those same lines, I suspect that Rove would not be all that upset if the GOP loses the Delaware seat despite how much he professes his desire for a Republican majority.  Who wants to deal with someone so unpredictable and unmanageable as O’Donnell?  That’s why he’s willing to stick that little bit of doubt in the craw of Fox viewers by saying O’Donnell better explain exactly what she meant by “dabbling” as a witch.

Frankly, I think this story is a sack of lies that displays a rather ignorant understanding and conflation of Satanism, paganism and Wiccans.  It would not surprise me in the least if friends from that time come out and say that O’Donnell is lying.  But it’s a bright, shiny object to distract the media and they will take the bait happily.

Fox also looked at the O’Donnell victory and pooh-poohed the pervasive meme (by the “liberal media”, naturally) that it indicates a civil war within the GOP.

NY Daily News columnist Andrea Tantaros tried to paint this not as a battle between the moderate and conservative elements of the Republican Party, but of the “old guard” versus the “new guard”.   I’m really not sure what these distinctions without a difference means.  The Republican Party ideas haven’t changed in 30+ years.  Everything they do is to the benefit of the elite 2% of the population.  I think what we’re seeing with the Tea Party is Republicanism writ large and stripped of all the code words and niceties to make their policies palatable to the rest of the country.

As verification, we need only look at fellow tea party candidate Joe Miller in Alaska.  Miller has said that he thinks unemployment benefits are unconstitutional.  To his credit (and I am loathe to give him any credit), Chris Wallace goes back again and again to test exactly what Miller thinks unemployed people are supposed to do.

Miller, not surprisingly, dodges the question over and over and turns it into an esoteric discussion of the Constitution.  This is my issue with these tea party types.  They talk in grandiose ideals, but cannot deal with the hard realities.

I also think it’s telling that while Sarah Palin is credited with helping Miller win the primary with her endorsement, Miller very deftly passed on reciprocating endorsing Palin’s presumptive 2012 run for presidency.

Meanwhile , Bill Clinton appeared on Meet the Press, ostensibly to discuss the Clinton Global Initiative, but also not about to pass up opining on the state of the union.   He was talking about the high unemployment rate, but then he went a slightly different direction than one would expect.

Clinton says that there are FIVE MILLION JOBS out there unfilled for two reasons: mismatched skills and people upside down on the mortgages can’t move for work.

Frankly, I’m finding his five million number impossible to verify, so I’m going to guess that he’s exaggerating a bit.  Most studies/reports I’ve seen have placed that number between 2 and 3 million.  Still not a small number, but certainly not nearly as dire as Clinton made out.

I also think that to blame it on mismatched skills is simplistic.  You have people out of work for the first time in their decades-long career competing with recent college graduates.  Employers will tend not to hire over-qualified people for jobs because the assumption is that you’ll lose them as soon as the economy improves.   And because this economy is poor, many companies are looking for multi-skilled candidates willing to work at entry-level pay (not a realistic option for a qualified person with a family and mortgage, etc) or with little to no benefits (as a temp or consultant, for example).  And there’s also the issue of ageism.  Employers look at a potential employee’s age, make assumptions about the responsibilities in life (children, health, etc.) and calculate if that person is going to be a good investment for them.

And finally, I need to bring up Tucker Carlson.  I admit to having just a passionate dislike of him, and his uncanny ability to be on the absolute wrong side of every issue.  Tucker was on Fox News this weekend to promote his special (which he called a documentary, but I refuse to go along with that, since the word “documentary” connotes an attempt at non-fiction) scaring parents over the liberal bias in their kids’ textbooks.

Tucker defended the oxymoronically-named Texas State Board of Education, who is debating a measure to slap a sticker on textbooks warning parents of a pro-Islamic (and therefore anti-Christian) bias.  This bias is based on nothing, because a conservative bloc within the board fears that with more Middle Easterners buying into the US textbook oligopoly—the evidence of which does not exist—they’ll just tend to focus on the more unfortunate aspects of Christian history (the Crusades and the Inquisition come to mind) and ignore the jihadist nature of Islam.  Tucker, of course, backs this bit of truthiness wholeheartedly, saying that studies prove it true.   Studies that exist only in the fevered minds of Tucker and the Texas State Board of Education, mind you.   Tucker’s big issue with the textbooks—aside from opportunistically jumping on anti-Islamic sentiment—is that he can’t identify with the examples given:

I think I was in fifth grade when I began to suspect that textbooks weren’t entirely on the level. The first tip-off came from the word problems in math class. They typically began with scenarios that, even to a 10-year-old, seemed a little unlikely: “Julio’s mom is a welder. His father is a pediatric nurse. If his mom welds for 9 hours a day, then…”

Or: “If Maria wins her first three prizefights by knockout, and her next three by TKO, how long before she can leave her job as a lumberjack and fight full time?”

The characters in my textbooks didn’t sound like anyone I had ever met. Years later I realized, that was exactly the point. The educators who wrote them weren’t interested in describing the world as it was, or had been, but rather as they wanted it to be. They were ideologues, and my math and history books were their pamphlets, disguised as academic texts.

Thirty years later, few textbooks bother with the disguise. Entire chunks of the English language have been banned from the classroom, liquidated in a P.C. purge. First to go were words containing the dreaded term “man,” the three letters most offensive to professional feminists. Mailman, chairman, snowman, fisherman, manhole cover–every one now extinct, disdained relics of a bygone age.

Ah…so only if the textbook came with examples with which he could identify —the fastest way to get to the Hamptons, the best store on Rodeo Drive to purchase bow ties,  calculating the income to expense ratio of the media job gotten after an expensive private boarding school education—without any of those pesky acknowledgments of the working class women forced to work for 70 cents on the dollar of their male counterparts, the textbooks would truly be educationally worthy.  Got it.

And finally, my friends at the Blue America PAC hit it out of the ballpark on this one (I know, mixed metaphors…. Oh well…)

And, as mentioned on today’s show… Jimmy Carter was on 60 Minutes last night.  It’s well worth a watch!

Aug 302010

I’m still waiting for the miracle we were promised, but all I saw was a guy preaching Jesus.  Sorry, but that’s no miracle in my book.

On today’s show, we’ll look at what Glenn Beck delivered, and what he didn’t, with a guy who’s been studying the would-be messiah and his ilk for a while now.  Will Bunch, a senior write at the Philadelphia Daily News (also the man behind their Attytood blog), and a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, has spent the last couple of years visiting the strongholds of the RWNJs in America, trying to figure out what they’re all about.

The outcome is in his new book, “The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama.”  And yes, he did attend Saturday’s gathering of Whitestock.  We’ll have lots to talk about.

To get it all started, here’s Will talking about his new book:

In our second hour, Victoria Jones will give us the latest news courtesy of the Talk Radio News Service.  I’m sure we’ll have time to talk about her latest piece for Huffington Post, “I Have a Nightmare: Glenn Beck as Phony Messiah (Politics and Religion Don’t Mix)

And we’ll wrap it up with our regular Monday night “Fools on the Hill” segment with Crooks & LiarsNicole Belle, recapping the Sunday talking head shows.  Here’s what Nicole wrote:

It was a fairly mixed bag for the Sunday shows.  Fox News obviously focused on the Beckapalooza event in DC over the weekend, but Meet the Press (sans David Gregory) looked at the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and This Week opted to take themselves out of the news memes altogether to look at education in the US.

One of the things that I think was notable from the Sunday discussions is how many of our politicos—Democrats too—get locked into the same old thinking, even when that thinking has not helped us up to that point.  It’s discouraging to see them not look towards more progressive solutions but to ape Republican memes.

First up in the “old school solutions” is Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. (our video person recording MTP had a problem with the recording so it’s the MSNBC embeds)

Before Landrieu appeared, Brian Williams talked to Brad Pitt, who has a foundation that builds safe, sustainable and green homes for lower-income people.  Think about that—homes that invest in a green economy, that supersede building standards so that Ninth Ward residents aren’t left homeless again, and whose energy bills will be significantly lowered, thereby giving residents more disposable income to reinvest into the economy.  That’s a smart, forward thinking holistic approach to the issue.  And then comes Mary Landrieu.

Landrieu appeared with her brother, who is now the mayor of New Orleans, and one of the things that she advocated for is the lifting of the drilling moratorium—not for the oil companies, but for the “little guys” like “Big Al’s Sandwich Shop”.  Well, I’m sorry, but that’s just crap.  The Gulf Coast is not yet recovered from the Deep Horizon spill and certainly couldn’t cope with another one—and there is little indication that the issues that led to the disaster (strong federal oversight, safety precautions, redundancies, etc.) have been resolved and she leaves out that it isn’t little “mom and pop” energy companies that can afford deep water drilling.   Plus, despite the way Landrieu characterizes it, there is no guarantee that oil BP was getting would go to the US at all, but instead be sold on the open market to the highest bidder.  Landrieu’s whole pitch sounded like nothing more than the obscene greenwashing ads by the American Petroleum Institute saying that now is not the time to raise taxes on energy companies, because “people” are struggling.

As I see it, New Orleans is at a do-over moment.  They can go back to the old way of doing business and cross their fingers that they can weather the next storm, or they can charge to the front of the green economy: bring green manufacturing to the Gulf Coast.  Invest in rebuilding using this technology and employ people of the Gulf Coast.  Training people to manufacture, install and maintain technologies like solar panels, wind turbines, etc. brings jobs that can only be done in the US to the Gulf Coast and all those support businesses will still have industry to support.    The Gulf Coast could be the model for the rest of the country to divest themselves from a petroleum-based economy.   But Landrieu, heavily dependent on campaign donations from Big Oil, is still advocating for the same wrong answers.

And then on This Week, we had Education Secretary Arne Duncan, American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten and DC public school Chancellor Michelle Rhee discussing the state of education in the US.

Here’s the thing: there’s no arguing that things need to be fixed.  In comparison to other countries, the US is abysmal in education.  We are matriculating barely literate kids who have little ability to think critically.  But the frustration lies in the same Republican framing where we focus on the teachers and discuss merit-based pay.

Personally, I think this focus is part and parcel of the Republican desire to union bust, including the teachers’ union.    Here in California, we’ve got the 8th or 9th largest economy in the world, and almost half of our state budget goes to education.  Yet I’m here to tell you that very, very little actually gets down to the classroom.  I had over $200 for each kid in basic supplies I had to purchase this year.  There is some bloated bureaucracy above the teachers that I do think needs to be focused on, but making this about teacher pay ignores the problem.

And if all other things were equal, perhaps merit-based evaluations would make sense.  But how do you tell the teacher who is in an inner-city school with kids whose parents aren’t involved or are too busy with multiple jobs to survive, whose students often come to school with an empty stomach (in many impoverished areas, the free school lunch is the only meal these kids regularly get), who live in dangerous neighborhoods (or may even be homeless) that he or she deserves less pay because the students don’t score as well on tests?  How do make allowances for that?  How do you give children whose circumstance of birth is not their choice an equal opportunity?

And sadly, there’s no push back on this.  There’s no discussion about how to get more parental involvement (which every teacher will tell you is critical for student success).  There’s no discussion about valuing education (something we almost sneer at here now; being smart is “elitist”) or giving teachers more free reign, rather that forcing them to “teach to the test”.   So once again, Democrats adopt Republican framing and ignore the big picture solutions.

But with all the sadly blind stuff from Republicans being co-opted by Democrats, that means Republicans need to go even more crazy right to distinguish themselves from the Democrats.  Which brings us to Joe Miller, Republican/Tea Party senate candidate from Alaska.

Joe tells Bob Schieffer that he thinks that Social Security and Medicare are un-Constitutional.

Oy.  What do you say to this level of idiocy?  Actually, my hope is that no one says anything to him and he keeps saying stupid stuff like this all the way to the election.  The majority of self-identified tea party members are over 50 years old.  Go ahead and tell them they shouldn’t have Medicare and Social Security and should pull themselves up by their bootstraps and take care of their own retirement and health care costs.  Go ahead.  Let’s see how many votes he gets with that.

And then my personal bugaboo, the thing that gets my teeth on edge every time:  the willful misunderstanding of the First Amendment.  SE Cupp appeared on Fox to defend those protesting the Cordoba House by saying the “liberal media thought police” (who?) are telling people they can’t have certain opinions.

And this goes for Sarah Palin, Dr. Laura and all these other right wing whiners who invoke the First Amendment:  the First Amendment guarantees that the GOVERNMENT will not shut you up.  It does not guarantee that other citizens won’t criticize you for your words.  It also does not guarantee you a national platform from which to speak.  And frankly, I think if you are so thin-skinned as to not be able to stand someone criticizing your words, maybe you should consider how wise your words are.  If you don’t like being called a racist, then look at what you’ve said that would make them call you that.  It’s not the liberal “thought police” telling you to do that, it’s living in polite society.  If you don’t want to be called a sexist, don’t refer to women as “bitches” , if you don’t want to sound intolerant of others, don’t act as if all Muslims are America-hating terrorists.  And if you don’t want to modify your manner of speaking, don’t get upset if people call you on it.  That’s just them exercising their First Amendment rights.

Check back after the show for the podcast link!

Aug 232010

I’m a bit misty eyed today, as I sent my daughter off to her first day of middle school this morning.  I remember her first day of kindergarten as if it was yesterday. Where does the time go?

One of her subjects is World History.  I look forward to reading the text book to see how it’s presented.  In this political climate, I worry about how our kids are taught, and a whole lot more…

This blog will be short today, as I waited at home until she arrived home from school to see how it went (Fine Mom).  And then rushed to the studio.  And I’ll rush home to spend some time with her before her bedtime… all 15 minutes.

On today’s show, I’ll speak with Howie Klein of Down With Tyranny and the Blue America PAC… they endorsed just one Florida candidate in tomorrow’s primary: Doug Tudor, who will also join me this evening.

Yes, Blue America also endorsed Alan Grayson, who participated in an online chat today at Crooks & Liars, but he’s not being challenged in the primary.  He is, however, being targeted in the general election!

***Update*** Congressman Grayson called into the show too.  He told us about the crazy cadre of Republicans who are vying to challenge him for his seat in November.  Unfortunately, the DCCC is not helping him out, so it’s up to us to make sure he has enough in his campaign coffers to stay in Congress.  He has a moneybomb going on today at  Go and throw in a few bucks if you’re in the position to do so.

Victoria Jones checked in with a news report from the Talk Radio News Service.  Her latest piece for Huffington Post is “Hey First Amendment This — Cruel Entitles Dr. Laura and Narcissistic Saint Sarah.”

And in hour two, Nicole Belle of Crooks & Liars returns for our weekly Fools on the Hill segment, discussing the Sunday talking head shows.  Here’s her take on the Sunday shows:

So I think today’s theme is cluelessness:

Chris Matthews asks his panel if the Tea Party will have veto power over the 2012 GOP nominee.  First and foremost, they are using Sarah Palin as some benchmark of influence, which is ludicrous.  Her endorsement is by no means a shoo-in for any candidate right now, and there’s nothing that says her influence will strengthen in the intervening years.  If anything, if she opts to pursue a national candidacy herself, I suspect that the media scrutiny will result in her having even less credibility.

It also gives the tea party itself far more credit than they deserve.  I think we’ve seen middling electoral success from them in primary races, but they have yet to show themselves successful in full elections and given the polls for Angle, Paul and others, I don’t think they should crow just yet.

Which segues nicely into Howard Dean.  He points out to Candy Crowley that although the conventional wisdom is that the party in power suffers electorally in mid-terms, when your alternative is the Party of No, conventional wisdom may be wrong.

And then we have Dick Armey, the corporate head of the Tea Party, spouting off some truly unbelievable stuff:

He says that Medicare trashes the Constitution.  Huh?   What does he think those lazy, entitled senior citizens should do?  Work to pay for their Alzheimer’s treatment?  For proof, he brings up the example of “the” Christian Scientist, whom we apparently should feel bad is being forced to sign up for a doctor to get Social Security.  Of course, no one says he has to GO to the doctors, just sign up for Medicare.   But again, David Gregory falls down on the job of calling out this crap, and lets Armey filibuster through the segment and not allow Granholm to respond.

And then, in light of the protests on the Cordoba House in NYC over the weekend, Fareed Zakaria wants to remind Americans that we are not in a war with Islam and that al Qaeda hates factions of Islam as bad as they hate us.

By the way, a commenter made this video of the NYC protests when the haters went after a passerby, who happened to be a construction worker at Ground Zero and not a Muslim.

George Will thinks that the Mideast peace process is the biggest obstacle to Mideast peace.

Amazingly, I actually agree with him if only for this story:

I think if we really want to see Mideast peace, then the US needs to come to grips with the dichotomy between what Israel officially tells us and what they say behind closed doors.

And then Fox chooses to use Judith Miller of all people to discuss the study that American people have lost faith in broadcast news

Really, what can you say about them using the person the Bush White House used to feed propaganda about invading Iraq to?

Jul 262010

Nicole Sandler with Dan Choi

Yes, on tonight’s show, I’ll share some of the highlights of Netroots Nation, which wrapped up yesterday in Las Vegas.  I made it through with little injury, despite my best efforts.

I thoroughly embarrassed myself in front of Amy Goodman, Brad Friedman, Jason Leopold, Shannyn Moore, Jeanne Devon, and a whole host of others… but some of them embarrassed themselves too!

I was fortunate enough to do the show from the exhibit hall on Thursday (just scroll down to listen to the show with Amy Goodman, Brad Friedman, Shannyn Moore, Jeanne Devon, Markos Moulitsas, the executive directors of both Democracy for America and Netroots Nation, Senatorial candidates Scott McAdams from Alaska and Rodney Glassman, and a bunch of others I can’t remember off the top of my head!

Over the course of the rest of the conference, I was able to tape interviews with Lt. Dan Choi, Congressman Alan Grayson, LGBT activist Gloria Nieto, DFA chairman Jim Dean,’s Tim Karr, and Congressional candidate Tarryl Clark (running against Michele Bachmann). I’ll share those interviews with you over the course of this week…

We’ll start with Dan Choi tonight.  I spoke with him Saturday afternoon, not too long after Daily Kos’ Joan McCarter (McJoan) gave Choi’s West Point ring to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid… a moment you can watch here:

Also on tonight’s show, I’ll speak with Derrick Crowe of Brave New Foundation about the latest from wikileaks, and Crooks & Liars’ Nicole Belle is back for our regular Monday discussion of what happened on the Sunday talking head shows.

May 032010

The comedy took place Saturday night at the White House Correspondents Dinner. It came from the President, not from the comedian. (Perhaps that was Leno’s tragedy!)  The tragedy happened and continues to happen all around us… from the oil geyser in the gulf, to the massive flooding in Nashville and surrounding Southern cities and states, to what’s happening to musician Danny Tate, and lots more…

We kicked things off today with a conversation with Editor in Chief Joan Walsh! It was her first visit to the show, and the first time we’d ever spoken. I’m a fan of Joan’s… even more so after seeing her composure in the face of stupid evil like Dick Armey and just plain stupid like Mika Brzezinksi!

Danny Tate is a wonderful musician/singer/songwriter whose life has been turned upside down due to his brother, a lawyer and an either crooked and seriously corrupt judge in Tennessee. Click here to listen to my interview with Danny (it’s also contained in the podcast of the entire show, which you can hear by clicking on the player at the top of this post).  Click here to read the “Nashville Scene” piece that tells the entire, very sad story. Click here to get to Danny Tate’s diary and here for the “Friends for Danny Tate’s Defense” facebook page.

And finally, we wrapped up the show with a visit from Crooks & LiarsNicole Belle and a recap of the Sunday talking head shows….

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