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Archive for June 2009

For Gays and Lesbians, True Equality Starts with Marriage

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Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Mon, 06/29/2009 – 1:06pm

One of the overlooked elements to the death of Farrah Fawcett was that she and long-time love Ryan O’Neal wanted to get married at the very end, but unfortunately, they ran out of time. Even though they had been mostly together for almost three decades, they decide that getting married was something they wanted to do.

But a marriage that would have lasted hours or even days — even that kind of marriage isn’t an option for gay couples in over 40 states.

We have seen strongly committed gay couples wanting desperately to get married. It is the public face to put on for those who are unsure about gays and lesbians getting married. Show the strong couples, the committed couples, the ones that have been waiting a long time and desperately want to get hitched.

But behind this face are gay and lesbian couples who will want to get married for the reasons that some straight couples tie the knot: for money, professional advancement, on a whim, drunken and in Las Vegas, and even as a sweet gesture as one of them lays dying.

The recent release of “The Proposal” has Sandra Bullock’s character wanting to marry Ryan Reynolds’ character so she doesn’t get deported to Canada. As silly a premise as this is, gay couples can’t even do this in the vast majority of the United States. Of course, if this happened to a gay couple, they could just both move to Canada, get married, and not look back.

It is understood that you can’t come out and say this is what you are fighting for, but deep down, true equality is having gay and lesbian couples make bizarre or unconventional choices in getting married.

The religious right, which literally preaches the sanctimony of marriage, does two things rather poorly: they don’t chastise straight couples for their offbeat reasons for getting married, and they paint gays and lesbians as hedonists, which ironically, marriage would actually disprove this argument.

President Obama is meeting with LGBT supporters, one day after the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and, of course, Pride parades in many cities in the U.S. And the nice round number of a 40-year block — two generations worth — demonstrates how bad what the world was like for gays and lesbians in 1969, and the changes since.

But gays and lesbians have every right to be concerned about the defense of the Defense of Marriage Act, and the non-starter that is getting rid of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, or at least not enforcing its major statute.

We have freedoms as Americans to behave as odd, unusual, offbeat, unconventional as we want. But true freedom means freedom for all, for gays and lesbians to be every part of society, including those who want to get married. And not just married, but to be just as married for the same silly or sweet reasons that straight people do. This is when there will be true equality.

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Written by democracysoup

June 29, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Washington Post foolishly fired Froomkin to win the Media Putz

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Originally published on MediaPutz.com on June 25, 2009

The Washington Post

Jack Nicholson played a character who told us “You can’t handle the truth.” The Washington Post decided that we couldn’t handle the truth and fired Dan Froomkin.

Unless you are being laid off, and many good journalists are losing their jobs these days through no fault of their own, journalists don’t usually get fired unless they have done something significantly wrong. Hell, even Judith Miller of The New York Times wasn’t fired.

Did Dan Froomkin do something significantly wrong? His work was brilliant and fair against both major parties.

Sometimes, journalists are let go if they aren’t popular enough. But by all accounts, Froomkin was one of the most well-read members of the washingtonpost.com staff.

There are many who argue that the neo-con dominance of The Washington Post editorial page was one of the factors behind Froomkin’s departure. As deplorable as that is — on an ongoing basis — Froomkin worked for the Web site, not the paper. But when you load up your paper with neo-con voices (Paul Wolfowitz should have better odds of being in jail than being on The Washington Post editorial page) and dump one of your few semi-liberal voices, people will come to some logical conclusions.

The official excuse, from Washington Post Media Communications Director Kris Coratti, would make George Orwell feel inadequate:

“our editors and research teams are constantly reviewing our columns, blogs and other content to make sure we’re giving readers the most value when they are on our site while balancing the need to make the most of our resources. Unfortunately, this means that sometimes features must be eliminated, and this time it was the blog that Dan Froomkin freelanced for washingtonpost.com.”

The “resources” couldn’t have been that much since Froomkin freelanced the column. No benefits, no vacation, no strain on HR. As for value, Froomkin provided material that no one else had, especially at The Washington Post organization, newspaper or Web site.

The Web site has been cutting back on online chats, one of the few traits that brought distinction to washingtonpost.com that would have brought potential for more income, not less. Froomkin had one of those chats that most political insiders and observers read with earnest. In his last chat for washingtonpost.com, in response to a question about Post reporters not labeling torture as torture, Froomkin was straightforward that he always had called it torture.

“I call it torture. Over and over again.”

As for resources and priorities, the organization still employs long-past-his-prime dinosaur David Broder.

But the ultimate reason why The Washington Post fired Dan Froomkin — the ultimate reason why it decided that he wasn’t enough of a contributor to their news organization – was that he called out torture as torture, called out against those who spoke up for torture, and did the job that journalists are supposed to do.

As much as those on the right love to pump up The New York Times and The Washington Post as “the liberal media,” the reality is that most of the time, they speak to the truth in a much closer fashion than the rest of the MSM. But this does not make them liberal.

Anyone who has seen decisions made by The Washington Post, mostly on its editorial page, would not objectively assign the word “liberal” to The Washington Post. But the newspaper, the news organization, Web site and all, used to stand for standing up to government figures, to telling readers about what the government was doing.

To older generations, this meant Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. But to younger generations, it feels more like Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, two actors while playing real people that felt more like fictional characters. They don’t see in the modern version of The Washington Post what past generations saw.

Dan Froomkin was one of those who likely saw Watergate as the reason to stand up and report what government was doing. Not that we are comparing Froomkin to Woodward and Bernstein, but he did stand up against the tide because exposing the curtain behind what the government was doing was part of his job. While Woodward and Bernstein were praised by those in The Washington Post, Froomkin was loathed by various levels of staff who had influence over his fate.

There were childish arguments: the painfully tedious process that made Froomkin change the name of his column from “White House Briefing” to “White House Watch.” There was the internal battle over whether Froomkin was a reporter, even if his reporting skills put others under the WaPo roof to shame. And of course, there was the sea of attacks from the right-wing fringe because Froomkin had the “audacity” to report what was going on while George W. Bush lived in the White House.

In an era where newspaper readership is declining, and newspapers aren’t really sure what to do with their Web sites, Dan Froomkin stood out as the future of online MSM journalism. The Washington Post treated a star like a pariah, and foolishly fired one of their top people. For that, The Washington Post earns the Media Putz of the week award.

The Washington Post previously won the Media Putz on August 21, 2008.

Written by democracysoup

June 25, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in media criticism, MSM

Should We Even Bother with Health Care Legislation if There Is No Government Option?

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Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Wed, 06/24/2009 – 9:41am

President Obama says we will get health care legislation by the end of the year. He keeps saying it. The president said it again this morning to Diane Sawyer on “Good Morning America.”

“We’re gonna get it done. So, I won’t engage in hypotheticals in which we don’t. And the reason it’s gonna get done is because the American people understand it has to get done. … Every town I visit, every city I go, people ask me, … ‘Why is it that my premiums have gone up– two, three times in the last nine, 10 years?’ … I’m confident that if everybody puts their minds to it, we can get it done.”

Obama was talking with Sawyer as part of the daylong ABC visit to the White House. The trip commences tonight with a special on health care from the White House at 10 p.m. EDT with more coverage on “Nightline.”

Normally, progressives would be enthused over the prospect of health care legislation/reform. But the idea of legislation that is crummy might indeed be a worse prospect than the status quo, as horrible as that is to imagine.

And a health care legislation bill without a government option is not something to seriously consider, no matter how much of a “compromise” it might be to some.

Would you protest such a bill if it didn’t require at least a government public option? Hopefully, the process won’t come to that point. But naivete can’t rule the day. Those who want true health care reform have to prepare for that possibility.

This prime-time broadcast, and subsequent late-night coverage, should be an important time to give national attention to a more progressive solution. But there is legitimate fear that single-payer or even a public option will get short shrift. After all, Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer are at the controls.

Attendees for the discussion will be hand-picked by ABC News. ABC News Senior Vice President Kerry Smith says “ABC News alone will select those who will be in the audience asking questions of the president.”

While ABC’s attempts are bold by U.S. network standards, quite frankly, health care is so important that three hours of prime time on a summer evening by all the major networks (and FOX) would be a tiny price to pay.

President Obama spoke passionately at yesterday’s press conference of the stories he has heard along the trail of horrible health care disasters. Stories that would be solved by single-payer no matter the dislike he seems to have for that solution. These are the same stories that would be helped by a public option.

But we haven’t seen a lot of political capital being spent by the 44th president, no bold steps being taken. Health care reform requires boldness not seen on the political landscape since the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

If Congress can’t stand up to the insurance companies and other monsters in the way, and Obama won’t spend the political capital to veto a bill without at least a public option, what should be the reaction from progressives? If Congress passes a bill without a public option, and Obama seems ready to sign it, what should progressives do?

Written by democracysoup

June 24, 2009 at 9:41 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Dan Froomkin spoke the truth, shined the light in the MSM darkness to win Wings of Justice

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Originally published on WingsofJustice.com on June 24, 2009

Dan Froomkin

There is this fear that in certain circumstances, someone will speak the truth and get fired for it.

Though we may never know or understand the real reason why The Washington Post fired Dan Froomkin late last week, we do feel deep down that he was fired for speaking the truth.

There was the recent exchange between Froomkin and columnist Charles Krauthammer over the use of torture. Froomkin criticized Krauthammer for his outright endorsement of torture; Krauthammer used the word “stupid” in responding to Froomkin’s criticisms.

In a recent chat as part of his regular White House Watch duties, Froomkin was asked about Post reporters dancing around the word “torture.” Froomkin pointed out that he has always called it torture. (Here is the original link.)

The truth that Froomkin spoke of for a long time was his diligence in chasing down the horrors of the Bush Administration. Where the Beltway is known for inside-baseball, incestuous relations between the Washington press core and politicians, Froomkin was one of the few journalists in that realm who bypassed the cocktail party circuit, and opportunities to dance and rap with Karl Rove, to focus on the intracities of what those in power were doing.

Unlike most in the MSM, Froomkin always had one foot in the other world: his day job with NiemanWatchdog.org. And that dual citizenship gave Froomkin the power to weave in and out of both worlds. The WaPo.com readership got strong reporting it otherwise wouldn’t have had while giving Froomkin an audience he might not normally have had.

As we are learning in the last few days, The Washington Post didn’t always appreciate what a treasure it had. There was a feeling in prominent circles that Froomkin wasn’t a “reporter.”

If you read the White House Watch, the one thing Froomkin did was report. He didn’t rant or scream; he reported and presented. Often times, his pieces were boring but in a good informative way. In a media landscape as dark as a Swedish midnight in December, Froomkin took a lamp and said, “Over here.”

And when Barack Obama took over in the White House, Froomkin didn’t stop the fire being held to the feet of those in charge. When most MSM members have been chasing distracting fluff stories, Froomkin was actually concerned about whether Obama was keeping his promises. For all the cries of “liberal” against Froomkin, once again, he was still one of the few journalists who was calling out the president, regardless of party, and making sure promises were kept or broken.

Last month, Froomkin weighed in on how “playing it safe” is killing American newspapers. There was one passage that spoke not only to the future of journalism, but also summed up what he did for washingtonpost.com and what made him a great asset.

The right way to reinvent ourselves online would be to do precisely what journalists were put on this green earth to do: Seek the truth, hold the powerful accountable, expose the B.S., explain how things really work, introduce people to each other, and tell compelling stories. And we should do all those things passionately and courageously — not hiding who we are, but rather engaging in a very public expression of our journalistic values.

For doing just that in an otherwise laid-back MSM environment, for doing what journalists are supposed to do, and for speaking the truth when it wasn’t fashionable, we award Dan Froomkin the Wings of Justice award. Some smart news organization would be smart to grab him while they can.

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Written by democracysoup

June 24, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in media criticism, MSM

No Matter the Health Care Solution, Personal Responsibility Is Part of the Mix

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Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Mon, 06/22/2009 – 1:10pm

The major health care battle is being fought with phrases such as “single payer,” “public option,” and “let’s protect private insurers.” But there is another health care battle that doesn’t directly involve the government or private health insurers.

If we had a trillion dollars every time President Obama has mentioned personal responsibility in a speech, we could buy the much needed infrastructure changes in this country. The president has spoken considerably about reducing behaviors that have led to obesity.

In one of many examples, in his June 15 speech to the American Medical Association, President Obama outlined our obligations as citizens for what we can do.

“It means quitting smoking… It means going for a run or hitting the gym and raising our children to step away from the video games and spend more time playing outside… It also means cutting down on all the junk food that’s fueling an epidemic of obesity.”

Regardless of what health care plan we adopt as a country, or whether we (sadly) keep the status quo, we can also reduce health care costs in a way that doesn’t involve the government.

The American way is to reward ourselves, whether it’s a holiday or the end of the work week or even work day, and often that comes in the form of food. And we don’t seem to care what we put in our mouths.

We have been told for some time that children born in 2000 have a 1 in 3 will contract Type 2 diabetes, 1 in 2 if they are a minority. And since some as young as 9 are getting the disease, we may be hitting just the beginning of a new very strong wave.

There are two times of year when people start thinking about the way they eat and exercise: around New Year’s Day and when summer really kicks in. The New Year’s scenarios average about two weeks, the summer versions probably a bit longer. And since summer has now officially started, perhaps we can start thinking in terms of a year-round solution.

As this reporter learned from watching “Food Inc.” over the weekend, the food situation as Americans are stacked up against us. Government and corporate forces combine to give us a bad deal. Reduced food inspections by the FDA (down to 9,164 inspections by the FDA in 2006, according to the makers of Food Inc.), lobbyists pressure to include high-fructose corn syrup, and the way we grow our chickens and cows are just some of the roadblocks in our way.

Unlike cigarettes or even drugs, we need to eat food every day. And so we have to work harder as citizens to seek out quality within our food supply. Ironically, we might have more in common with our caveman brothers and sisters in that hunting and gathering for food is once again a complex exercise.

Of course, food is only one vital cog in the machine. No matter how cool the video games get, or IM (instant messaging), reality TV, or overall computer face time, we aren’t getting enough exercise.

Government certainly has a role to play in improving our health care: the new legislation that allows (finally) the FDA to regulate cigarettes. The number of food inspections needs to dramatically increase. But for all of what the government needs to do, President Obama understands that we need to do our part as well.

One area where we might get government, Republicans, Democrats, private health insurers, doctors, and progressives to all agree on is yearly checkups. The sooner problems are caught, the better we feel as a people — more productive, too — and we save money in the process. Right now, the health care system is not set up to take advantage of that solution.

Getting government to step up is vital to improving our overall health. But we can’t be ignorant of two things: government will never move fast enough, and we have to take on some of the responsibility ourselves.

Written by democracysoup

June 22, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

‘Public Option’: A Better Talking Point, But Progressives Still Way Behind On Making Strong Health Care Argument

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Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Thu, 06/18/2009 – 2:13pm

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-june-17-2009/heal-or-no-heal

Health care is really about getting medical attention you need without feeling deprived or fearing bankruptcy. But the health care debate comes down to buzzwords.

In the early 1990s, the Republicans blitzed the discussion with fears of government-controlled health care, how government bureaucrats would decide whether you got treatment, socialized medicine, and rationing of health care.

What has changed now is that the progressive side has caught up, somewhat, in terms of positioning.

Single payer is what most of BuzzFlash’s readers want (and what BuzzFlash wants), but single payer as a concept isn’t very descriptive. Yes, if you pay attention to the health care debate, you understand the nuances. But to those Americans who are trying to figure out which is the best way to go, single payer doesn’t tell them why it’s good.

“Public option” is a little better. In watching Howard Dean recently on “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” Dean did a great job in explaining “public option” and also framed the question in asking why Republicans wouldn’t be in favor of public option. And “public option” gets around using the word “government.”

European-style or Canadian-style would be simple ways to convey what we are looking for. But for numerous reasons (and bad propaganda from the other side), those expressions don’t have positive connotations.But Republicans and even the Blue Dog Democrats are framing the discussion in a way that diminishes legitimate and necessary options. To say that single-payer isn’t even on the table decimates the concept of reform.

The Democrats have had at least 15 years to think about how to phrase their fight in a different fashion. After all, say what you will about the Republicans’ take on this issue, but they aren’t using new techniques. Every trick the GOP is using is at least 15 years old.

Yes, it’s good that Harry and Louise aren’t in the picture anymore. And progressives should be happy to learn from the mistakes of the Clinton Administration. But it doesn’t feel like the lessons have been completely learned.

Every major poll offers huge support for changing the way we do health care. People are ready for a difference-maker but want to make sure they keep what they like about what they have. This reporter talked to a woman in Detroit last month who voted for Obama and was a fan, but was against health care reform because she didn’t want to lose her doctor.

The Wednesday night ABC prime-time special from the White House on health care would be an ideal time to showcase a new approach for progressives to reframe the health care debate.

Despite the whines from the right-wing fringe, there are a few problems with this format. Charles “capital gains obsessed” Gibson and former Nixon White House staffer Diane Sawyer are hosting the event, and the audience members who will ask questions offered by “selected by ABC News who have divergent opinions in this historic debate.” That won’t bold well for anyone with a progressive bent from being called on.

But maybe one or two questions from the left can get into the discussion. And if Obama hears the words “single payer,” the president will start shaking his head side to side and get that look on his face that says, “not going to happen.”

Politically, “public option” may be the best progressives can hope for in 2009. But if anything, “public option” should be the compromise, not the progressives’ starting point in the discussion.

Health care is difficult to explain. And there is a very strong feeling that health care is much too valuable to be reduced to a marketing term. However, “socialized medicine” conveys a stronger image in the average American mind than “single payer” and “public option” combined. Until progressives truly understand this, and start fighting the fight of reality in the American marketplace, the quality of health care in the United States will never be anywhere near what it should.

Written by democracysoup

June 18, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

John Ziegler brought his lack of credibility to Palin-Letterman mess to be the Media Putz

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Originally published on MediaPutz.com on June 18, 2009

John Ziegler

[http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22425001/vp/31206590#31206590]

The one name that kept creeping up — and we do mean creeping — during the whole Sarah Palin and David Letterman spat was John Ziegler.

Sarah Palin mentioned him as being the source of how she found out about what Letterman had said, and she made sure to say his name on the “Today” show when Matt Lauer interviewed her. Ziegler was also behind the FireDavidLetterman Web site.

Ziegler also got himself on MSNBC in an interview with Contessa Brewer that was more about him shouting out wild accusations, gratuitous insults, and not responding to direct questions.

You could say the big “winner” in the Palin-Letterman matchup was Ziegler since he received unbelievable levels of undeserved publicity. Once again, the “losers” were journalism and the American people.

Ziegler is best known — before this latest charade of credibility came along — for his “thorough” documentary of Gov. Palin and how she was “mistreated” by the press for actually asking Palin to answer questions of easy and medium difficulty. The work, “Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected And Palin Was Targeted” gives us an idea about where his loyalties lie.

“This was a tough interview (the Katie Couric interview) for Sarah Palin because she was hit with things she had never seen before.”

Like what periodicals does she read, and Supreme Court decisions she doesn’t like?

In this latest publicity grab, Ziegler also lead a huge rally outside the Ed Sullivan Theater — uh, what — only about 40 people showed up? Well, Ziegler led a smattering of assembled people.

“It is part of a liberal attempt to destroy Governor Palin for the past eleven months,” Ziegler said at the rally. He doesn’t mention the extensive help in destroying Gov. Palin that came from Gov. Palin.

But to show you the lengths Ziegler will go for his point, check out this convoluted logic in explaining the hypocrisy of going after Letterman and not other media figures.

When asked why the protest took a week to happen, Ziegler asked, “Why did David Letterman take a week to apologize?” When Air America, in more of an accusation that a question, remarked that Sarah Palin went on Saturday Night Live in 2008 a week after they had aired a skit which said that Tod (sic) Palin had slept with his daughter, Ziegler pointed out that skit was set in a New York Times staff meeting where the paper’s staff was considering topics to write, so it was essentially a satire on what the Times might publish to discredit her, not Saturday Night Live saying this directly of Gov. Palin.

So this was more about attacking David Letterman and CBS than in some crusade to go after “perverts.” And as Keith Olbermann pointed out, the amount of time for Letterman’s apology was a matter of 3 or so hours, not a week. It sounds like Ziegler graduated magna cum laude from the Palin school of upholding responsibility.

The timing of Ziegler’s latest round of publicity appears to be tied in with his return to radio in Los Angeles this month, almost as if he got involved to promote his revitalized radio career. But when you look at his track record, it’s a wonder that even in the world of conservative talk radio that he keeps getting hired.

According to Wikipedia, there was the O.J. Simpson issue, where Ziegler got fired for making a joke about Simpson’s guilt, and once said later he “had a very, very, very serious plan to kill O.J. Simpson.” Ziegler was fired for saying the n-word in Nashville. He was fired in Louisville for discussed the physical attributes, intimate attire, and genital grooming of his former girlfriend, a Louisville TV personality. And when Ziegler filled in for Matt Drudge in 2006, he played Michael Richards’ tirade without editing out the “n-word.”

Ziegler’s media career is filled with multiple failed radio stops and two documentaries lacking any sense of journalistic credibility or sense. He is a talent-challenged, publicity hound who has latched himself on to the one person who desperately craves publicity more than him in Gov. Palin.

Ziegler’s role in this latest Palin publicity push is even more dehumanizing in that they dragged the reputation of David Letterman through the mud and damaged the legitimate issue of those who have suffered sexual abuse of underage young women. For that, John Ziegler earns our Media Putz of the week award.

Special thanks to the Political Carnival for its extensive coverage of the antics of John Ziegler.

Written by democracysoup

June 18, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in media criticism, MSM