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Archive for December 2007

Democracy needs the voices of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (and their talented writers)

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Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Mon, 12/17/2007 – 12:40pm

“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and the “Colbert Report” would have likely been on vacation this week, without a writers strike. They usually take two weeks off at the end of the year, and you would think that the Iowa caucuses would have brought them in on January 2 and 3.

Of course, there are no new episodes of these shows since November 5 because of the writers strike. The writers want (and deserve) a share of the proceeds from the Internet. When you watch a show, the writing usually is what stands out. There are many good reasons to support their cause. If your company makes money from something that you did, you should get paid for it. Plus, a writer wrote this piece you are reading now. And our good buddy and BuzzFlash contributor Michael Winship is the president of the Writers Guild of America (East). So we are hoping for a quick end but one where the writers get a good and fair deal.

But the timing is really bad for this writers strike since the political campaign is just hitting its stride and we are without two main outlets for commentary, criticism, and analysis. The news writers at CNN, FOX, MSNBC, etc. are not on strike (though CBS news writers, without a contract since 2005, might go on strike in a separate situation). The news writers could go on strike at the cable news outlets and not be missed (except for Keith Olbermann).

Comedy Central has been developing themes as they continue to show the reruns. This week, politics is in the spotlight: Reruns of Jon Stewart with Bill Clinton, Bill Richardson, and Al Gore along with Colbert interviews with Ron Paul, Howard Dean, and Tom DeLay.

But they are not new, they are reruns.

I said in the beginning that if Comedy Central could negotiate separately, Stewart and Colbert would have back on the air by now. The latest is that David Letterman is trying to negotiate a separate deal, and CBS and Comedy Central are both owned by Viacom. Unfortunately, Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien are going back without writers on January 2.

So perhaps there is truly hope for something to happen in time for the Iowa caucuses. But valuable time has been wasted — the NIE on Iran came out without the take on Stewart and Colbert. The last debates in Iowa have come and gone without the sharp take from the “fake news” comedians. And we can’t forget the silence on the “rise” of Mike Huckabee.

The length of the impasse has even taken its toll in Canada, where both programs air on CTV, the top over-the-air commercial network in the country. The shows had been airing at midnight Eastern, following the local news. But CTV moved TMZ, the entertainment news show, into the midnight time slot, pushing Stewart to 12:30 a.m. and Colbert to 1 a.m. The Comedy Network in Canada had been running the shows at 11 p.m. Eastern, but now only air the show during the day.

The thought of Indecision 2008 (otherwise known as Clusterf*&k to the White House) being silenced when people actually start voting is intolerable. I’ve already gone stir-crazy.

This is the time we wait for every 4 years: to pick among the pack for our next leader. And we need the fullest, most relevant coverage of those events. We know the mainstream media will pick on something and blow it out of proportion (e.g., Howard Dean and the “scream”). What we need is the kid in the back of the class to call out the MSM. Right now, that’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. And they and their writers are silent.

So, major studio executives, we know you want a nice long strike. But there are more important things than whether you’ll get a Lexus or BMW for the holidays. There is the political discourse of a society, a democracy on the brink. Just toss a few more pennies per sale for the writers (they only get 4 pennies for each DVD sale now) and a few more pennies for Internet content. There’s a democracy at stake.

Written by democracysoup

December 17, 2007 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Is there true religious freedom if a U.S. president has to choose a religion?

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Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Wed, 12/12/2007 – 12:28pm

During the 2000 debacle, I was working for an encyclopedia company when it decided to put together a special volume on presidential races and history. I remember copy editing the page that listed all the presidents. There were many categories: Party, Date Born, Date Died, Birthplace.

The last column was Religion. I looked up and down the list. Every one had a religion. I noticed that we have had two Quakers in the White House yet only one Catholic. All have been Christian, usually some Methodist or Protestant affiliation.

I wonder what they would put down if a president somehow got elected and had no religion. “Atheist” is not a religion, neither is “Agnostic.”

None would be a good choice, but if you believe a Gallup poll from about a year ago that reveals that Americans would rather be governed by a homosexual than an atheist, None probably won’t happen for a long time.

The religions of the leading candidates have been an issue lately in the political cycle. John Kerry got huge amounts of flak for his Catholicism, yet Giuliani’s Catholicism has gotten little if any attention. But the big shining light in this year’s race is on Mormonism and Mitt Romney.

The good news for Democrats is that there is a long laundry list of reasons not to vote for Romney. And Republican voters would share some of those reasons as well. But some Evangelicals don’t want to vote for Romney because he’s a … Mormon.

So freakin’ what if he’s a Mormon. If we are going to truly separate religion from politics, we shouldn’t care about someone’s religion.

The problem is that Evangelicals care and so does Romney. Because they care, we have to be gravely concerned. We have been wasting time with “theories” such as Creationism instead of using science to better our lives. Stem cell research has been held back due to religious interference.

As Media Matters notes in his now infamous speech: “Romney attacked unnamed people who ‘seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God,’ claiming, ‘It’s as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America — the religion of secularism. They are wrong.’ Nor did the article note Romney’s claims that ‘[f]reedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom,’ and ‘[f]reedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.’ ”

No, Mr. Romney, freedom gives you the option to pursue religion or not pursue it. That is true freedom. It is only from true choice that choosing God or whatever becomes meaningful. When it’s required, religion loses all meaning because choice — and freedom — are gone. As British author Anthony Burgess put it, “If a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man.” And sometimes, that choice is None.

It doesn’t matter if Mitt Romney is a Mormon or Rudy Giuliani is a Catholic or Hillary Clinton is a Methodist. But it DOES matter if their religious practices make it more difficult to have an ongoing discussion on how to make this country a better place for all its citizens.

The lyrics from this Scott Beach song “Religion and Politics” from of all places, the Dr. Demento show, tell us why religion and politics truly need to be separate.

Religion and politics
Often make some people
Lose all perspective and
Give way to ranting and raving and
Carrying on like emotional children.
They either refuse to discuss it with reason,
Or else they prefer argumentum ad hominum,
Which is a hell of a way to conduct a discussion.

Written by democracysoup

December 12, 2007 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized