Levellers

Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

A Plan to Save U.S. Newspapers

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but amidst all the other economic bad news, the U.S. newspapers are in big trouble.  The recession/depression is the immediate problem, but the longterm bad news for newspapers is that their business model (sell advertising which reaches large amounts of people because of the paper’s wide circulation) no longer works.  Circulations are plummeting as people read the news online, watch it on TV (network and/or cable), listen to it on the radio, etc.  All for free.  So, many newspapers are going bankrupt or ceasing publication. Others are laying off reporters and staff, cutting back local reporting (the heart of their readership), etc.

None of this is good for our democracy.  We need a free press. We need more in-depth reporting than TV or radio can provide and we need more local reporting than online sources provide.  Enter, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and the Newspaper Revitalization Act.  Sen. Cardin’s plan to save our free press would allow those newspapers who wanted to do so to become non-profit enterprises, like Public radio and TV.  The idea is to save the local reporting.

I hope it works.

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April 4, 2009 Posted by | media reform | 9 Comments

Financial Media Matters

The media watchdog group, Media Matters, has launched a new website, “Financial Media Matters.”  The site will monitor the financial news, especially the papers (e.g., The Wall Street Journal) and cable channels devoted primarily to financial news, but also the financial news in mainstream media.  It will look for bias, mistatements of fact, coverage of the “woes” of the financial fat cats vs. coverage of labor,  and ordinary people. (Also looking for “pimping” of particular stocks, etc.) On today’s page, the site notes that Joe Scarborough, former Republican Congressman from Florida and host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” falsely claimed that White House Budget Director Peter Orzag “admitted that the Obama Budget will create unsustainable debt.” Orzag said no such thing.

The new site also calls out the Wall Street Journal‘s article on the AIG bonus debacle for omitting the role of the Bush administration back in the Autumn.  And, it wonders if CNBC’s Kudlow is illegally using his show to plug his election candidacy.

Media reform is essential to our democracy.  Citizens can help by using these kind of watchdogs and then responding with calls to Congress and to sponsors  of shows–and wide publicizing of media problems.

March 23, 2009 Posted by | media reform | 5 Comments

Investigative Journalism?

Jed Lewison asks the disturbing question, “If the mainstream media put had put 10% of the effort they are expending into finding out if Treasury Sec. Tim Geithner or Sen. Dodd (D-CT) stripped anti-bonus legislation out of the stimulus bill into examining the Bush admin.’s bogus claims about WMD in 2002, what are the chances we’d have gone to war with Iraq?”  Considering that Thursday marked the 6th anniversary of that invasion, 6 LOONG years for an illegal, unnecessary, war of choice against a nation which had not attacked us and had NO MEANS TO DO SO, that”s a very important question.  (As just one example of the journalistic malpractice that happened in the run up to the invasion, how many “journalists” STILL owe apologies to Lt. Col Scott Ritter, a highly decorated marine veteran of Gulf War I, who had been chief weapons inspector in Iraq under both Pres. Bush I and Pres. Clinton.  When Col. Ritter kept refuting the Bush admin.’s claims that Iraq had WMD, numerous TV talking heads questioned his patriotism–even accusing him of being in Saddam Hussein’s pay.  He was right; they were wrong; no one has apologized. The Obama  admin. should give Col. Ritter the Medal of Freedom.)

March 20, 2009 Posted by | Iraq, media reform | 3 Comments

Economists and Progressives Say Fix CNBC!

A group of progressives and economists are building on the schooling of CNBC and Jim Cramer by Jon Stewart by petitioning CNBC producers to stop being a PR firm  for Wall Street and  start doing real, investigative journalism of the financial world that protects consumers and ordinary investors.  You can join  the effort here.

UPDATE: Now CNBC is saying the AIG bonuses are “no big deal” even as AIG has had to increase security outside its offices.  These folks  are completely out of touch.

Initial  signatories include:

Dean Baker, economist  and Director of the Center for Economic Research and author of Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy.

Lawrence Mishel,  President of the Economic Policy Institute. (EPI is a really good group whose economic expertise has informed myself and many other Christian theological ethicists who work on economic justice issues.)

Doug Henwood, Economic journalist and author of Wall Street and After the New Economy.

Eric Burns, President of Media Matters for America (This is the premier organization in the battle for media  reform in the U.S.A.)

Peter Hart, Activism Director, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).

Linda Jue, Director of the G. W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism.

Tracy Van  Slyke, Project Director of The Media Consortium

Don Hazen, Executive Director, Independent  Media Institute

Robert  Borosage and Roger Hickey, Co-Directors, Campaign for America’s Future.

Justin Rubin, Executive Director  of  MoveOn.org

Markos Moulitsas, Founder of DailyKos.com

James Rucker, Executive Director of  ColorofChange.org

Adam Green  and Stephanie Taylor, Co-founders, Progress Change Campaign Committee

Aaron Swartz, Co–creator of Reddit and RSS and Co-founder of Progressive Change Campaign Committee

Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law at Stanford University Law School and  Co-founder of Change Congress.

Todd Gitlin, Professor of Journalism and Sociology and Chair of the Department of Communications, Columbia University.

Christopher Hayes, Washington Editor  of The Nation (one of the few publications that really DOES have a “liberal media  bias” and has for over 100 years because it doesn’t take advertising and  so has no corporate masters).

Eric Alterman, Professor of Journalism at Brooklyn College and at CUNY Graduate School  of Journalism and Fellow  at the Center for American Progress (CAP).

Tom Geoghegan, Labor Lawyer and public interest lawyer and author of numerous economic policy related books  such as the best-selling, Which Side Are You On? (Tom also just ran and lost in the VERY CROWDED Democratic primary for the vacated Congressional  seat of Rahm Emmanuel, IL’s 5th district, now that Emmanuel is White House Chief of Staff. I hope he tries again for public office.)

Heather Boushey, Senior Economist for the Center for American Progress (CAP).

Eileen Applebaum, Professor and Director of the Center for Women and Work, Rutgers University.

Sylvia Allegretto,  Economist at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California at Berkeley.

Chris Rabb, Founder and Chief Evangelist  of Afro-Netizen.com and Demos Fellow

Philip Anderson, founder of TheAlbanyProject.com (a blog on New York state politics)

Ian Welsh, economist and economics blogger and former Managing Editor of Firedoglake.com (a major progressive news blog–one of the earliest to dig deep into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame by the Bush admin. Firedoglake was WAY ahead of the mainstream media and reporters from the latter started reading Firedoglake.com to catch up!!)

Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland and Before the Storm (both essential reading for understanding contemporary American politics).

Garlin Gilgrist II, blogger at TheSuperSpade.com

John Amato, founder of CrooksandLiars.com

Joe Sudbay, Deputy Editor of AMERICAblog

Josh Silver, Executive Director, The Free Press

March 16, 2009 Posted by | economic justice, media reform | 10 Comments

Jon Stewart Schools Jim Cramer

In last night’s edition of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (a comedic rendition of cable news shows), host Jon Stewart ripped CNBC’s Jim Cramer of Mad Money.  This was a conclusion of a week of ripping on CNBC and Cramer’s angry replies.  Stewart shows that it was not Cramer per se, but CNBC (and the  other “business news” channels, Fox Business, Bloomberg, etc.) failure to do real journalism.  For a decade they acted as cheerleaders and pimps for the Wall Streeters who were using the 401(k) s and pension funds of ordinary Americans for high risk gambling that made tons of money for the few while wrecking businesses and the economy and making off with our money.  Cramer tried to make himself seem like a fellow victim, but, as Stewart showed, he was a former hedge fund manager who actually taught people HOW to game the system.  Stewart’s most devastating critique is that CNBC and the other business channels saw themselves as friends of Wall Street–while they were SUPPOSED TO BE muckrakers, investigative journalists who DEFEND the ordinary Americans who thought their savings and pensions were safe and now can never retire or are losing their homes,  etc.

The entire inteview, in two parts, is available at http://www.thedailyshow.com and I advise seeing it yourself.  Tell others. 

A democracy needs not only a non-corrupt legislature, executive, and judiciary, but a free press. But the function of a free press is not to shill for those in power, but to expose corruption and evil.  The “muckrakers” of the Progressive Era exposed the unsanitary conditions of the meat industry and got laws changed to protect consumers.  They exposed unsafe work conditions, etc.  Modern business news journalists should not have been selling “get rich quick schemes” (which Stewart compares to infomercials!) but exposing those who were putting our economy at risk.  The press cannot take the place of regulatory agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission, but in eras (like the last decade) in which agencies like the SEC were undermined by presidential administrations that promoted de-regulation mania, the press can put public pressure on regulatory agencies to do their jobs.  That’s WHY we have a free press.

If a free press exists only to cheerlead a push for war (as both The New York Times and The Washington Post, the 2 most widely read newspapers in the U.S., did in the run-up to the Iraq invasion), never asking hard questions about the line coming from the White House, we could just substitute Pravda.  If a free business press exists only to cheerlead the irresponsible practices of the financial sector,  what makes them different from the PR firms of those companies? 

The sad thing is that it takes a comic, the modern  version of the court jester, to teach such elementary journalism to one of the premier faces of CNBC.  In Stewart’s own words, the failure of CNBC (and the other business press) was irresponsible at best and criminal at worst.  I hope they’re listening–and that we, the public, force them to listen.

March 13, 2009 Posted by | media reform | 4 Comments

25 Most Influential Liberals in U.S. Media?

The business conservative magazine Forbes has written an article describing their take on the 25 Most Influential Liberals in the U.S. Media and telling their readers to watch for their influence during the Obama era.  Forbes makes no distinction between liberals and progressives, so I will group them together for this blog post.  (The article follows a previous listing of the 25 Most Influential Conservatives  in the U.S. Media).  Now, it is probably true that liberals in the media will gain in influence in the coming years, especially if the Obama administration is successful (a big “if” given the size of his challenges).  But consolidation of the mainstream media’s ownership since the beginning of the ’80s has led to far more conservatives in the mainstream media than are representative of U.S. attitudes as a whole.  Unless media monopolies are broken up and policies implemented to promote more diversity (and local, small-scale) ownership of media outlets, the conservatives are still likely to dominate the  media, reflecting the biases of the media owners. 

But what is strangest about the article, however, is that the list leaves off influential  liberals (e.g., Keith Olbermann, Tavis Smiley, Katrina Van Den Heuvel, Katha Pollit, Naomi Klein, Clarence Page, Gene Robinson [the journalist,  not the Episcopal bishop], Matthew Rothschild, Amy Goodman) and includes figures that are not really liberals, but either moderates or even conservatives (e.g., Oprah Winfrey, Tom Friedman, Christopher Hitchens [a prominent cheerleader for the Iraq War], etc.).  In the case of omitting Olbermann, it is especially strange, because they list Rachel Maddow as #7–and, although Maddow was well-known to listeners of Air America Radio, it was her frequent  guest appearances on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann that led MSNBC to give Maddow her own The Rachel Maddow Show.  It’s fair to say that without Olbermann, Maddow would be much less influential because she would be reaching fewer people.  The Forbes article also lists only one African-American voice, that of Oprah Winfrey. Now, no one would doubt Winfrey’s huge media influence, but she is a very moderate voice–hardly radical in any way and far more conservative than most African-Americans.   All this suggests to me that Forbes, a very conservative magazine, is better at identifying influential conservatives than influential liberals.

At any rate, the Forbes list is below for your consideration,  Gentle Readers, along with my descriptions and comments.  I’ll suggest some substitutes and ask you for other contributions.

  1. Paul Krugman, Professor of Economics at Princeton University and winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economics.  Author of The Conscience of a Liberal (which I highly recommend) and the brand new The Return of Depression-Era Economics (which I have on order).  Krugman writes a weekly column for the New York Times and has been a relentless critic of Bush-era economic policies, predicting the current economic crisis as early as 2003. He is also a frequent commentator on several cable news shows.  I don’t know if he  is the MOST influential liberal in the media, but he should be near the top–and I wish he was more influential with the Obama admin. than economist Larry Summers or Timothy Geithner. 
  2. Arianna Huffington was a moderately conservative Republican in the ’80s and ’90s, but had a conversion in the late ’90s and became a Democrat.  After unsuccessfully running for California governor in the recall election which led to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2 terms as governor, she founded the blog The Huffington Post, which has quickly grown into  an online daily journal with hired journalists as well as op-ed writers.  Because of HuffPo, Arianna is surely one of the most influential liberal voices, but she is only moderately liberal–and her writing staff includes people from across the political spectrum.
  3. Fred Hiatt is the editorial page editor of The Washington Post which definitely makes him influential, but does it make him liberal?  WaPo was a major cheerleader of the Iraq war from the run-up until early 2005 and Hiatt is an apologist for many Bush policies, including keeping open the detention gulag for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  I seriously doubt that many true liberals consider Hiatt a member.
  4. Thomas Friedman, Foreign Affairs columnist and Pulitzer Prize winning author for the New York  Times, at best Friedman is a moderate.  He defended the invasion of Iraq, but changed his tune quickly once no “weapons of mass destruction” were found.  Forbes probably considers him liberal because Friedman works hard to sound the alarm about catastrophic climate change (he suggests that “global weirding” would give a more accurate weather picture to non-scientists than “global warming”) and population explosions, but he’s a strong defender of globalized capitalism–even if not in the strong laissez-faire sense that Forbes would prefer.  To most progressives and liberals, Friedman is a reasonable conservative.
  5. Jon Stewart, stand-up comic turned host of Comedy Central’s fake news show, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  Stewart is definitely a liberal and uses his show to critique the silly aspects of the news (on all sides) as well as the silly side of politicians of all stripes. But, he interviews serious authors from all perspectives and here exercises real influence.  Surveys have shown that young people who get most of their “news” from The Daily Show are better informed than those who watch the mainstream media, which is both weird and sad.
  6. Oprah Winfrey, actress and host of The Oprah Winfrey Show.  No one doubts Oprah’s influence.  If you are writing a book, you definitely want her to promote it because then its sales go through the roof.  But apparently Forbes’ only criterion for considering this incredibly wealthy woman a “liberal” is that she was a major supporter of Obama’s campaign for the presidency. But Obama was supported by conservatives like Christopher Buckley (!), and moderate Republicans like Colin Powell, too.  (Obama’s campaign was like a Rorschach test in which people saw very different things  in his campaign–and he was clearly a break from Bush.) Maybe Oprah is a liberal, but nothing in her show really shows this and Forbes seems to have no real criteria for including her–a woman who, apart from the Obama campaign, has been notoriously apolitical. (In fact, I would argue that his appearance on Oprah in 2000, and her softball questions for him, allowed George W. Bush to swing enough of the women’s vote to “win” the 2000 elections.)
  7. Rachel Maddow is one of my favorite newscasters.  A young out lesbian Rhodes Scholar with an Oxford Ph.D.  in political science, Maddow held a number of strangely unrelated jobs before becoming a major liberal voice on Air  America Radio.  In 2007, she became a frequent guest commenter on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann which led in ’08 to her own hugely popular The Rachel Maddow Show.  She is openly to the left of Obama (was furious at the invitation of Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inaugural), a policy wonk, and someone with a great sense of humor.  She may also be the only host of a cable news program who deliberately doesn’t own a television and gets all her news online and from newspapers and magazines. (One of my favorite segments of her show is “Ms. Information” where she highlights underreported “Holy Mackeral” stories that need greater exposure.)
  8. Joshua Micah Marshall is the founder and senior editor of Talking Points Memo, a left-of-center on-line news center.  TPM began as Marshall’s personal blog during the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida and has grown to become an online news source with a staff of journalists and op-ed columnists. TPM has often broken news before the mainstream media and its factcheckers have debunked misreporting by the MSM.  With more and more under-30s getting the majority of their news online, Forbes is probably right that Josh Marshall is a major liberal influence.
  9. David Shipley, editor of the op-ed page of The New York Times.  Well, now that the Times employs more rightwing columnists than liberal ones,  it seems that only conservatives still consider the Times itself to be liberal. (Judith Miller’s shoddy reporting helped cheerlead us into Iraq!)  There are many liberal writers working for the Times, but Shipley’s own views are unknown.  Again, Forbes’ choice is hard to understand.
  10. Markos Moulitsas (“Kos”) is the founder and editor of the liberal blog (with diaries from across the spectrum) Daily Kos.  Here my curiosity is not that Markos was included, but that he was placed this low on the list.  After all, Daily Kos was one of the earliest influential liberal blogs, the answer to conservatives’ The Drudge Report and Markos used it to organize liberals and progressives at a time when conservatives were apparently winning everything.  His annual convention of liberal bloggers, which began as “Yearly Kos,” became “Netroots Nation” and in 2008 became influential enough that almost all major Democratic candidates for office felt compelled to attend and speak to  the assembled guests.  Unlike many political bloggers, Markos actually has a journalism degree and, while the diaries and comments of other “Kos” users may be simply opinionated rants, his own posts usually involve sharp political analysis.  I am not questioning Forbes’ inclusion of Moulitsas, but their ranking of his influence in this list.
  11. Fareed Zakaria, is a CNN Host, and editor and writer of Newsweek International.  With a B.A. from Yale and a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard, Zakaria is the past editor of the influential journal Foreign Affairs and author of the bestselling The Future of Freedom which has been translated into 20 languages.  His new book, The Post-American World, about the rise in power and influence of the rest of the world, has become an instant bestseller.  Again, my question here is not about Zakaria’s inclusion on the list, but his place on it.  I think he’s a major influence shaper, especially of policy elites. 
  12. Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC”s Hardball and, for a time, rumored to be a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate (from his native Pennsylvania) in 2010–rumors Matthews finally put to rest earlier this month.  Is Matthews a liberal? Sure,  he became infamous for saying on air that Obama inspired him so much he “sent a tingle up my leg,” and Matthews never stops letting people know that he worked for Bobby Kennedy’s campaign for the presidency, his show is always about polls and process and not much about issues.  While he has a reputation for tough questioning of guests, his questions are often not the ones which really should be asked.  I give Matthews major points for being against the Iraq war from the beginning, and for raising hard questions about the case for invasion during a time when most of the mainstream media (including the New York Times and The Washington Post ) were buying the Bush propaganda hook, line, and sinker, but so did Republican Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), now retired, and no one would call him “liberal.” Opposition to war, especially a war waged under false pretenses and was illegal under both domestic and international law, is not a “liberal” or “conservative” position.  Matthews is, at best,  a centrist.
  13. Bill Moyers, may be the last of the old-school serious journalists who does real investigative journalism in the United States.  The native Texan once thought of becoming a minister and actually graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, but returned quickly to his first love, journalism.  He worked for President Lyndon B. Johnson before quitting over the Vietnam War.  He has spent most of his long journalistic career with PBS and may have interviewed more globally fascinating people than Barbara Walters and Mike Wallace combined.  Definitely to the left of Obama politically, Moyers is part of that hardy breed of white Texas liberals. (Texas doesn’t breed many liberals or progressives, but those which do spring up there tend to be tough–they have to be– and possessed of great senses of humor and incredible bull**** detectors and a cultural tendency to plain speaking which annoys both Washington, D.C. and the East Coast elites. Which is why I like them so much.) He would be more influential than he is if more people watched PBS.
  14. Christopher Hitchens is a British-born American journalist, author, and literary critic–and one of the growing number of “angry atheists” seemingly spawned in reaction to religious fundamentalism.  But  is Hitchens a liberal?  Once a Trotskyist Leftist, Hitchens seems to have embraced at least part of the agenda of the Neo-Conservatives.  He was a strong defender of the Iraq war (and still is), and of preemptive war against what he calls “fascism with an Islamic face.”  Though insisting that he remains a “Democratic socialist,” this seems even more unbelievable than when Tony Blair says the same thing! I think Hitchens is popular with both liberal and conservative media types because he is both articulate and provocative, but it’s hard to argue that he is influential–much less an influential liberal.
  15. Maureen Dowd is the New York Times columnist and former Washington correspondent.  She’s center-left and her columns are popular for their humor, but I doubt she is as influential as Forbes believes.
  16. Matthew Yglesias, B.A. (magna cum laude) in philosophy from Harvard and once editor of the Harvard Independent, Yglesias started blogging in 2002 while still in university.  He is editor of the influential liberal blog, Think Progress and his first book, Heads in the Sand: How Republicans Screw Up Foreign Policy and How Foreign Policy Screws Up Democrats (2008) should be read by everyone in the Obama administration. Yglesias is also a staff writer for The American Prospect, a liberal journal.  He is widely respected by conservatives because he is willing to critique liberals and progressives (something far more common than conservatives believe, but they notice when Yglesias does this internal criticism), but his views do have major influence on the left side of the American spectrum.  I hope Yglesias’ influence grows–at least as long as he shows the kind of brilliant analysis he has shown so far. 
  17. Hendrick Hertzberg is a former speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter (D-39) and principle political commenter for The New Yorker magazine.  Does The New Yorkerhave enough circulation these days to be influential? Update: I wrote that last question because of the declining circulation of most newspapers and magazines, but Hertzberg replied to me that The New Yorker‘s circulation is over 1 million, it’s highest ever.  This is VERY good news, in my opinion.
  18. Glenn Greenwald, spends about half his time in Brazil with his same-sex partner.  A U.S. Constitutional lawyer, he was a columnist and author who resists easy categorization.  But the Bush administration pushed him much further to the left and he has been a relentless critic of its policies, of the echo chamber of the U.S. corporate media, and of the timidity and complicity of far too many Democrats in Congress.  He writes a column devoted to politicall and legal topics for the online journal Salon.com (which is one of the best online magazines, imo).  He has focused much attention on surveillance issues and separation of power abuses and his testimony has been cited in Congress.  He is the author of 3 highly influential books, How Would a Patriot Act? (2006), which makes the argument that apologists for the Bush regime betrayed core American principles; A Tragic Legacy (2007), examining how the Bush presidency led to huge longterm failures; Great American Hypocrites (2008) exposes hypocrisy in both political parties.  All are New York Times bestsellers and all are highly recommended by me.
  19. Andrew Sullivan is a British citizen, but he writes frequently for American media and his blog The Daily Dish, is an excellent online feature of The Atlantic Monthly.  Forbes appears to classify Sullivan as “liberal” because he is openly gay and because of his opposition to the Religious Right and American cultural  conservatives (yet, he is a faithful, if dissident, Roman Catholic).  But he is no liberal or progressive, but rather a classic libertarian conservative (expect him to be a major critic of Obama’s economic policies).  As a progressive, I always find libertarians to be excellent companions in struggles for civil liberties (and frequently on war and peace issues, too, since libertarians are seldom military interventionists), but on economics, we are lightyears away.  This makes Sullivan an interesting dialogue partner, but it hardly makes him a liberal.
  20. Gerald Seib  is Washington bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal .  He is an excellent and objective reporter.  The WSJ has arch-conservative editorial pages, but its news sections are brilliantly objective and free from influence of the editorial pages.  I guess this makes Forbes think that the WSJ news section and its writers are “liberal” because they aren’t obviously conservatively biased.  But I don’t know anyone who can really tell Seib’s politics from his writing.
  21. James Fallows  is a former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter who has been a journalist for years with The Atlantic Monthly.  Once again, I would guess that Fallows is liberal because of his former occupation, but I have never seen much “liberal bias” in his reporting.  I also doubt that Fallows is an influence upon many liberals in America.
  22. Ezra Klein is a young writer and editor at The American Prospect and he was one of the first bloggers to be given press credentials at a political convention in 2004.  He writes frequently on health policy and has argued that 2009 may finally be the year Americans get universal healthcare (I hope he is right!).  He is also a major writer on the labor movement. 
  23. Kevin Drum  is a journalist who became a blogger and is now both.  His blog, The Political Animal at The Washington Monthly  is always worth reading.  I admire Drum for his intellectual honesty.  In the aftermath of 9/11, he got  caught up in the delusional Bush war fever like so many others.  He originally supported the invasion of Iraq, but, on the eve of invasion, he changed his mind, initially for pragmatic reasons. His investigations had convinced him that the approach the Bush administration was taking was bound to make the invasion an unmitigated disaster and that Saddam was once more contained and the weapons inspectors were doing their work.  Since that time, he has seen that the war should have been opposed from the beginning on philosophical grounds. 
  24. Kurt Anderson the writer and novelist and creator of the cultural website, Studio 360.  I don’t see anything which makes Anderson either liberal or a POLITICAL influence, though his cultural influence is undeniable.
  25. Michael Pollan is a columnist, an environmental activist, and also a professor of journalism at UC Berkeley.  The author of the bestselling, The Omivore’s Desire and his The Botany of Desire explores the co-evolution of humans with certain plants. 

It’s an odd list. It combines undoubted influential liberals with those who are either not liberal or not very influential.  Further, as I pointed out, it leaves out every African American voice except that of OPRAH! (Where is Tavis Smiley, Clarence Page, or Bob Herbert? Since bloggers were featured so prominently, what about some prominent black political blogs like Jack and Jill Politics?)  There were no Latinos, either.  And the ranking of the liberals included seems odd. 

So, Gentle Readers, any suggestions for a better list of influential liberals for what Forbes is calling “the age of Obama?”

January 25, 2009 Posted by | media reform, U.S. politics | 11 Comments

Tell Cable News: There’s More to U.S. People of Faith Than Dobson

This falls in the “What Liberal Media” genre, showing the rightwing bias (AGAIN) of mainstream U.S. media.

Is Focus on the Family president James Dobson’s opinion worth more than the beliefs of the entire American population?

The cable news networks seem to think so.

Early this week, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a groundbreaking survey1 of 35,000 Americans documenting the diversity and tolerance of people of faith and the growing consensus around issues like poverty and the environment.

But what religion story dominated the cable networks yesterday? James Dobson attacking Sen. Barack Obama for a speech he gave two years ago on his faith.

In fact, on Tuesday, June 24, Dr. Dobson was mentioned a total of 189 times on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. The landmark Pew survey? Just 8.

Let the cables know there’s a lot more to faith than James Dobson. To sign the petition and spread the word, go to Faithful America.

August 4, 2008 Posted by | elections, faith, media reform, U.S. politics | 2 Comments

Media Bias or “What Liberal Media?, Chap. 1,000”

I’m returning to theological and other topics and staying away from posts directly on U.S. politics for awhile (probably until the DNC in August and RNC in September) unless events give me no choice. But I couldn’t help note an article on the Huffington Post by Max Berman that illustrates my longstanding claim that the U.S. mainstream media is biased in favor of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and his campaign for the presidency. (Heck, even MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, a Democrat who cheered for Hillary Clinton-with no pretensions of objectivity AT ALL–throughout the primaries said rightly that the media “IS McCain’s base.”)

Berman’s article shows that McCain has had a week of gaffs and screw-ups and outrageous statements (by him and by his surrogates like former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) that, if ANY ONE OF THEM had come from the Obama camp, would have spelled the end of the campaign. But the mainstream media barely gave them a notice, concentrating entirely on Jesse Jackson’s rude comment about his intentions toward Obama’s genitalia.  Once more, “what liberal media?”

Read the full article by Berman, but I’ll review the highlights. It is clear that, even to elect a centrist like Obama, never mind to create a truly progressive politics in this nation, media reform is VITAL. Here’s a recap of McCain’s week that you won’t hear on the TV talking heads:

  • Called Social Security “an absolute disgrace” because current workers pay for the benefits of retirees–just as they have since the 1930s. THE centerpiece of the New Deal, the most popular government program in the country, a disgrace? If ANYONE in the Obama campaign had said anything REMOTELY like this, pundits would already be calling FL (and probably the election) for McCain.  Since the media are ignoring or downplaying this, I DO hope the AARP and other groups for seniors are making political ads about this NOW.  Didn’t the HUGE flop of Bush’s 2005 attempt to privatize Social Security show that Americans reject this out of hand? But undoing ALL of the New Deal remains a conservative GOP priority and McCain is playing to his base.
  • Former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, McCain’s top economic advisor (unless the rumor is true that McCain is firing him), who WROTE McCain’s entire economic platform, said we are in a “mental recession,” and the nation is full of “whiners.” No wonder McCain got such a cool reception from blue collar workers in MI on Friday.
  • Iraqi leaders call for a withdrawal timeline. Despite the fact that McCain once promised that the U.S. would respect Iraqi sovereignty and have “no choice” but to leave when they ask, he first claimed they didn’t say this, then said it was an election stunt, then claimed that it would have “no bearing” on his plans for Iraq and then denied that he EVER claimed that he would leave when the Iraqi government said we should! Flip-flopping? Yes. Spreading democracy? Only if others’ democracies agree with our plans.
  • McCain release an economic plan that no economist thinks is at all realistic and is completely vague as to how it could be accomplished.
  • McCain, who has said we will stay in Iraq 100 years if necessary, now says he will save the economy by bringing the troops home since the war will soon be over. Why has this flip-flop gotten zero air time while Obama’s attempt to withdraw responsibly and listen to leaders on the ground has been falsely portrayed as a reversal or waffle?
  • McCain campaign has misled people about support from leading economists–who actually thought they were signing something else. Nice.
  • McCain, who once sang “Bomb Iran” to the tune of the Beach Boys’ classic, “Barbara Ann,” now makes a joke about killing Iranians.
  • McCain denies ever saying that he was not an expert in economics. See the video evidence to contrary at the link above–or repeatedly on Youtube, for that matter.
  • McCain distorted his record on veterans’ issues in response to a question from a Vietnam-era vet–who proceeded to call him on it.
  • McCain claimed that Aghan president Karzai’s relationships with Pakistan are “improving,” showing that his vaunted “foreign policy expertise” is not even equal to that of my 13 year old, daughter! As the last 8 years have shown, no one that confused about what is going on in the world should be allowed to lead this nation. I can see scenes of reading My Pet Duck during a major policy crisis looming now.

Berman’s article doesn’t mention that McCain opposed the fixing of Medicare’s payment to doctors (the only Senator to miss the vote), which was reducing medical care to the elderly. McCain has advised Bush to veto it, but it has passed both houses with veto-proof majorities.

Oh, and last week Pres. Bush and McCain were both claiming that McCain helped to pass the new G.I. Bill. FALSE. That bill, now law, was the creation of Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), Sec. of the Navy under Reagan, whose son is a Marine serving in Iraq and who has opposed this war from the beginning. McCain opposed this G.I. Bill as “too generous” to veterans we send in harm’s way (often on specious premises, such as with this war based on lies) and would lead to people getting out of the military to pursue college! When the Webb Bill passed the senate despite McCain, he urged Bush to veto it.  Now he wants to take credit for it–and the media refuse to call him on it.

Am I disappointed in some of Obama’s moves to the center? Yes.  Do I see him as a HUGELY better option than McSame? Absolutely. This nation, already in deep trouble because of 8 years of Bush, cannot afford even 4 years of McCain.

(BTW, anyone who thought that the first black president or the first woman president, etc. would be anything other than centrist is kidding themselves. Obama needs to be bolder, again, but no matter how centrist or how liberal or how ANYTHING, FOX News and co. will portray him as a radical terrorist in disguise.  The only black candidate they WOULDN’T portray that way is Alan Keyes–that rightwing nut job would be called “reasonable,” and “moderate,” not to mention, “a credit to his people.”)

We need media reform SO much.

July 13, 2008 Posted by | media reform, U.S. politics | Comments Off on Media Bias or “What Liberal Media?, Chap. 1,000”

Olbermann: Bush’s Hypocrisy About MoveOn.Org Ad

As a MoveOn.org member, I thought this ad was a bit juvenile and not helpful. But Bush’s hypocrisy is enfuriating. So is the fact that Congress could not pass any substantive legislation yesterday, but COULD find time to condemn a political ad. No wonder their approval rating is even lower than the president’s.  Once again, Keith Olbermann tells the truth in a time of media sophistry.

Here are some other appropriate comments aimed at the spineless Democrats who approved this stupid resolution that Sen. Maj. Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) should never have even allowed to come up for a vote. (You never saw the GOP-controlled Senate allow a condemnation of the ads attacking Max Cleland or telling voters that voting for Democrats was voting for Osama bin Laden to blow us up, did you?)  See here, here, and here.

N.B.: I should add that while I enjoy Olbermann’s editorials, he doesn’t do real news anymore than most mainstream media. You have to turn to PBS, C-SPAN, NPR, the BBC, etc. for real, hard journalism. Olbermann’s “Countdown” program is filled with entertainment fluff. But, at least his editorials are a refreshing change from Fox Noise and its clones.  Olbermann steals his line “Good night and Good Luck” from the late, great Edward R. Murrow. But Murrow’s editorials were so effective because they were so rare. He cut his teeth radio broadcasting live from the London Blitz–often in bomb shelters. He did hard, objective news and worried about the effect of television on journalism and on civic life–even as he tried to bend the medium to serious reporting. Olbermann is a pale reflection of that level of professionalism–but still stands out among U.S. TV “personalities,” where the usual choices are fawning rightwing Bush worship or “he said/she said” reporting with little skepticism or tough follow-ups.  Truthtelling is hard to do in an age when news programs are supposed to make money–instead of being paid for by the entertainment shows on AT OTHER TIMES.  I like Olbermann because he tries.

September 21, 2007 Posted by | media reform, politics | 2 Comments

Racism in Journalism: The “Is Obama Black Enough” Question

If anyone wonders whether or not racism is alive and well in 21st C. U.S.A., they only have to watch Tucker Carlson and an all-white MSNBC panel discuss Barack Obama’s “blackness” as a presidential issue.  Yes, they did.  Along with questioning whether Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) was “the best representative” of U.S. Latinos. ¿Como? ¿Que? Say, what??

Thanks, folks, but I think I’ll judge my presidential candidates on their qualifications, character, and issue positions, not on whether some white folks think a bi-racial candidate is or is not “black enough,” what degree of “flavah” a Latino candidate must have to be “representative,” or what the “perfect embodiment” of a female candidate should be! Give me a break.  These are the lengths the media will go to avoid discussing the issues in any kind of serious way.

I don’t recall anyone asking Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. about his “blackness,” when independents attempted to draft him (along with Dr. Benjamin Spock) to run a third party race for the presidency in ’68.  Did anyone ask the light-skinned Julian Bond if he was “black enough” when he became the first African-American nominated for the U.S. Vice Presidency at the Democratic National Convention in ’68? (Bond declined the nomination because he wasn’t old enough to pass Constitutional muster. Look it up.)  Did anyone ask Shirley Chisholm about her degree of “blackness” when she became the first African-American woman to run for president in 1972?  Has Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton or former Sen. (and former U.S. Ambassador) Carol Mosely-Braun, presidential candidates all, been discussed for their “blackness?” When Republican leaders were seriously considering Colin Powell or Condoleeza Rice as presidential candidates (before they both became far too identified with Bush’s very unpopular foreign policies to have a chance at winning), did anyone stop and ask if they were “black enough?”

No. None of them. So, what’s the difference, now?  Is it because the African-American community isn’t united around Obama’s candidacy? Don’t be absurd.  The African-American community has never united around a single candidate, no matter his or her race or ethnicity.  The assumption that it should do so is itself racist.  No, the  difference this time is that Obama has a real chance of winning–and that frightens certain power groups.  Getting a compliant, entertainment-obsessed, media to discuss non-issues like Obama’s “blackness” (with brief forays into Richardson’s authenticity as a Latino and Clinton’s gender) is a subliminal playing of “the race card.”

I have not yet picked a primary candidate (6 months before the election year even begins!) and by the time I get to vote the field will be much smaller.  As I have said repeatedly, I won’t endorse candidates on this blog.  I am impressed with Richardson’s credentials and experience. If running for president were a job interview, he’d have it hands down.  I don’t like Hillary Clinton’s economic or foreign policy views, which strike me as too close to Bush’s.  I get mixed signals from Obama.  Sometimes when he speaks, I get inspired and believe he could be a real healing force for the nation and the world. At other times, he also sounds too belligerant in foreign policy and too attached to neo-liberal economic policies (like Clinton and Bush). 

The most progressive candidate is Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), but his chances for being on the ballot when I get to vote in the primary seem remote.  Former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), who did not impress me in ’04, seems by far to be the most progressive of the current frontrunners.  No one is discussing his “whiteness,” or “maleness,” but they are avoiding serious discussion of his plans to eliminate poverty, provide universal healthcare, revitalize schools and labor by discussing–wait for it–his hair!!

Serious journalism isn’t dead in the U.S., but it certainly seems to be slipping into a coma.

August 11, 2007 Posted by | human rights., media reform, politics, race | 7 Comments