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Archive for September 2009

Jill Peterson & Kevin Heinz turned wedding dance into helping domestic violence victims to earn Wings of Justice

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Originally published on WingsofJustice.com on September 30, 2009

Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz

Weddings are a time where couples tend to focus on themselves, the ceremony that officially begins a whole new life together.

Which makes the story of Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz that much more spectacular.

Jill and Kevin got married in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 20 and had someone videotape their entrance dance. As part of the YouTube generation, they put the video online and it got a lot of notice.

Most YouTube videos have a life of their own, then quickly fizzle out. However, Jill and Kevin wanted the ending to be a little different. Jill and Kevin in their own words:

We have been through a lot in life, but have come through each experience stronger and more in love with each other. Our experience since we posted the video has been incredible. We would never have expected this response to our wedding entrance in a million years.

We hope to direct this positivity to a good cause. Due to the circumstances surrounding the song in our wedding video, we have chosen the Sheila Wellstone Institute.

Sheila Wellstone was an advocate, organizer, and national champion in the effort to end domestic violence in our communities.

We are so grateful for all the love, kind words, and joy that have been shared with us from around the world. It has moved us deeply and filled our hearts.

As of August 18, on what would have been Sheila Wellstone’s 65th birthday, the institute had received $16,498.69 from 674 donors from 47 states and more than 20 countries.

There was one issue from the video. The song in the video — Chris Brown’s “Forever” – was controversial because (for those who don’t follow pop culture) Chris Brown pled guilty to a felony involving an attack on his girlfriend, fellow R&B singer Rihanna.

At the same time, given Jill and Kevin’s background, the Sheila Wellstone Institute seems an extremely appropriate choice for donations.

“Jill’s current PhD work focuses on breaking cycles of violence in society. She has also worked in restorative justice and community mediation. Kevin is headed to law school due to his passion for social justice.”

Jill and Kevin were truly inspired by what Sheila Wellstone had done for domestic violence, and how the Institute became a legacy after his untimely death in the tragic plane crash in 2002 that also killed her husband, Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN). After all, the Wellstones were key players in the push for passage of the landmark Violence Against Women Act in 1994. In Sheila Wellstone’s own words:

“I find it absolutely intolerable to think that a woman’s home can be the most violent, most dangerous and oftentimes the most deadly place she can be.”

Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz could have soaked in the fame that goes along with a successful YouTube video. But they chose to do something more, to help those who suffer from domestic violence. For stepping up, or dancing up, we award Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz the Wings of Justice award.

Written by democracysoup

September 30, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

TIME magazine’s dishonest soft-sell cover story on Glenn Beck earns it the Media Putz

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Originally published on MediaPutz.com on September 24, 2009

TIME

Glenn Beck has been on national television since January 2006. But in 2009, the MSM outside the places where Beck has worked has “discovered” him. The viral videos of Beck crying, his racist cries against President Obama, even the number of advertisers that have fled in droves — all factors that intrigue the MSM.

When it comes time to actually doing a cover story on Glenn Beck, the negative material disappears from the pages as if it were written in invisible ink, leaving a deliberately false impression of the radio/TV pundit. The New York Times had its miserable opportunity, and as bad as that was, TIME magazine took it several steps further.

David Von Drehle makes the same mistake that The New York Times entertainment reporters Brian Stelter and Bill Carter made: he didn’t watch Glenn Beck’s show. If they had, all of them would have mentioned the considerable falsehoods Beck spews during his program. But then mentioning that would disrupt the lovefest theme of Beck as “rebel.”

Von Drehle exaggerates the Beck/Howard Beale connection in ways that even Beck couldn’t fathom.

Starting after the election and continuing into spring, pollster Frank Luntz conducted a survey of some 6,400 Americans, and the first question was whether they agreed with this statement: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Nearly 3 out of 4 — 72% — said yes.

Movie buffs might appreciate this, because when Beck gets rolling on a particularly emotional riff, when the tears glisten and the shoulders shudder, Paddy Chayefsky, the great leftist playwright, looks like a prophet. He’s the man who coined the phrase that, according to Luntz, is the rare thing Americans can agree on. He gave the line to Howard Beale, the mad anchorman at the center of the dark satire Network.

Where do we start? Von Drehle doesn’t identify Luntz as a Republican political consultant and pollster (and also manipulator of words). A more critical person would have gone into why people are upset instead of just noting that they are. Of course, one of the things people are upset about is a lackadaisical MSM, especially during the Bush years.

But Von Drehle misses the key connection between Beck and Beale: Howard Beale was a troublemaker because he spoke the truth in a sea of lies, while Glenn Beck lies, well, in a bigger sea of lies. Beale was “mad as hell” because the truth had difficulty getting through, because lies dominate the airwaves. So, Von Drehle, Beck is actually the antithesis of Beale but borrowing from his playbook.

Unfortuantely for the readers of TIME who might have wanted to learn more about Beck, the facts get in the way of Von Drehle’s drooling for Beck, who he refers to as “this rich and talented man.”

He is the hottest thing in the political-rant racket, left or right. A gifted entrepreneur of angst in a white-hot market. A man with his ear uniquely tuned to the precise frequency at which anger, suspicion and the fear that no one’s listening all converge.

Von Drehle mentions but quickily sidesteps past Beck’s comments on President Obama being racist.

He is afraid that Obama “has a deep-seated hatred for white people” — which doesn’t mean, he hastens to add, that he actually thinks “Obama doesn’t like white people.”

The quote plays like the one Beck said on “Fox & Friends” but Von Drehle makes it sound — by using the present tense — like Beck said it to him in the interview. Either Von Drehle is lying about the context or Beck said it to him, something that would be newsworthy if Beck had said it twice, especially after getting in trouble the first time.

While Von Drehle elaborates extensively on how Beck helped get Van Jones fired, he provides nothing at all about why Beck went after Jones in the first place. Nothing about loss of advertisers. Nothing about the general consensus that what Beck said about the president of the United States was untrue and beyond the standards of decency.

He is having an impact. Along with St. Louis, Mo., blogger Jim Hoft, whose site is called Gateway Pundit, Beck pushed one of Obama’s so-called czars, Van Jones, to resign during Labor Day weekend. Jones, whose task was to oversee a green-jobs initiative, turned out to be as enchanted by conspiracies as Beck — he once theorized that “white polluters and the white environmentalists” are “steering poison into the people-of-color’s communities” and signed a petition demanding an investigation into whether the Bush Administration had a hand in the 9/11 attacks.

Von Drehle goes harder after Jones, an attitude that he never even considers showing toward Beck, almost as if Von Drehle is protecting Beck.

When Von Drehle finally mentions the boycott much later in the story, there is no tie-in to Jones’ previous ties to Color of Change, or even to the success of the boycott.

A liberal group called Color of Change has organized an advertiser boycott of Beck’s TV show — great publicity for the group and a boon to Beck’s ratings.

They didn’t start the boycott to get publicity: they were sincerely concerned about the words Beck used. TIME and Von Drehle seem to think that the world of punditry is a game, not even considering that people could be affected or offended by anything Beck says, especially when it isn’t true.

This 3,500-word story wouldn’t pass the smell test of a high school journalism teacher. It’s full of gushy comments, key major facts are deliberately left out, and it’s sanitized of anything remotely negative or disconcerting.

But somehow it got through the editorial process at TIME magazine, and regardless of Von Drehle’s crush on Glenn Beck, the magazine is ultimately responsible, and earns this week’s Media Putz.

Written by democracysoup

September 24, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in media criticism, MSM

Those who have suffered due to health insurance companies earn the Wings of Justice

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Originally published on WingsofJustice.com on September 23, 2009

Those who have suffered due to health insurance companies

A 17-year-old girl in the Chicago suburbs who lost her health insurance retroactively after being diagnosed with celiac disease. The young man in South Carolina whose health insurer rejected his policy after he tested positive for HIV.

These two stories from last week are a drop in the sea of those who have suffered at the hands of health insurance companies.

You pay your premiums, you answer questions truthfully to the best of your knowledge on the forms, even if you need a lawyer to figure them out. You have the “audacity” to get sick, and then your insurance company isn’t there for you when you need them.

Then, when you should be concentrating on getting better and regaining strength, you and your loved ones have to expend energy fighting the insurance companies.

You end up with thousands of dollars in debt, often ending up losing life savings, declaring bankruptcy, or both, and you’re branded as a “health risk,” so getting insurance on your own is difficult or impossible.

As sad as this can be, there is a worse scenario:

“A new Harvard study released last week found that an estimated 45,000 deaths each year are associated with a lack of health insurance coverage — a finding that is likely to bolster the case for health insurance reform currently being debated in Congress this fall.”

Trisha Urban lives in Berks County, PA. Urban lost her husband the same day that their first child was born. Urban explains that the couple lost coverage and his heart condition was deemed a pre-existing condition not eligible for private coverage.

The health insurance companies count on those people giving up or not fighting back. The pressure from the health insurance companies can be intense, especially at a difficult time.

Those who do fight back and win, such as the South Carolina HIV case, give inspiration to others to speak up. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to change the views of the health insurance companies.

But patients who suffer as a direct result of the cruelty of health insurance companies — and there are a lot of you out there — are making a sacrifice. The stories that President Barack Obama and other like-minded politicians tell come from these cases of personal heartache. Hopefully, their efforts, after hearing those stories, will guide the health care system toward real reform with at least a strong public option.

Those who fight back, and those who are unable to speak up — both groups exhibit great displays of bravery for putting up with the #37 ranked health care system in the world, even though we’re #1 in in total health costs as a percentage of gross domestic product.

None of these people asked to be part of this world, and they would likely do anything to change it, especially establish a single-payer system. But these people should be rewarded beyond the potential for true health care reform. So we give thanks to the sacrifice of those who have suffered due to health insurance companies by awarding this week’s Wings of Justice award in their honor.

Written by democracysoup

September 23, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in health care reform

Sean Hannity deliberately ‘mishears’ Obama on health insurance executives to win the Media Putz

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Originally published on MediaPutz.com on September 17, 2009

Sean Hannity

Sean Hannity must be a fan of those word puzzles on your refrigerator, where you can put together random phrases. After all, you can take the same words, rearrange them, and make something new out of them.

Unfortunately, for the rest of us, Hannity was playing this game on television, taking words said by Barack Obama during the joint session of Congress health care speech, and rearranging them to fit his twisted internal view.

What Obama said:

“Insurance executives don’t treat their customers badly because they’re bad people; they do it because it’s profitable.”

What Hannity said:

“(Obama) said tonight that insurance company executives are bad people!”

We do have the words insurance executives bad people in both sentences. If we separate out the contraction, both men said are.

By Hannity’s logic, if Obama said the words insurance executives are bad people in a sentence, the other words don’t really matter.

Perhaps Hannity had a limited capacity to absorb Obama’s words, so what Hannity heard was “Insurance executives BLAH BLAH BLAH bad people; BLAH BLAH profitable.”

The timing couldn’t have been more awkward for Fox, the network. After all, a rare presidential speech before a joint session of Congress was broadcast on every major network and cable news channel, except, uh, Fox. Those watching Fox saw an episode of “So You Think You Can Dance.” Really.

In a climate where people still struggle to watch TV over the air after the digital transition, there are poor souls who live in places where the local Fox affiliate might be the strongest signal. Perish the thought. And they were deprived of seeing for themselves whether Sean Hannity was telling the truth or was full of crap.

The funny part, and this is a little funny, is that those who would not normally watch Hannity’s show would have wished someone in power would have said, “Insurance company executives are bad people.”

The sad part is that the people who do watch Hannity likely are the ones who really need health insurance reform.

That Sean Hannity would be behind a deliberate attempt to take Barack Obama’s words out of context is not shocking. In fact, Hannity has literally won the Media Putz earlier in 2009 for doing the same exact thing.

This time is different because Hannity had the guts to play the actual clip, playing Obama’s words in context. The words spoken by Obama completely reduced Hannity’s argument to less than a pile of dust. Yet, Hannity continued on with his lie-ridden fixation with fellow Media Putz winner Frank Luntz, who also weighed in on the matter.

“I think that he’s trying to demonize a segment of American society, and through the work that I’ve done, he may be successful, Sean. Because the American people don’t think too highly of insurance companies or the people who run it.”

But don’t think Hannity was done. After Luntz’s answer, Hannity brings back his false claim about Obama attacking the insurance companies.

“If he is going to go after the insurance companies, and this is part of a political strategy, my question is this. Are we allowed to analyze the ineffectiveness of government, the bankruptcy of Social Security and Medicare and the Post Office and the FDIC and Fannie and Freddie? Is that part of the debate too?”

So even though Hannity played the quote that made it quite clear that Obama wasn’t going after the insurance companies, that Obama went far out of his way to not offend the precious insurance company executives whose gold-plated lives have to be polished and kept pristine, Hannity pitches this idea that Obama is “going after” insurance companies.

To blatantly lie in the face of truth is a character trait we would assign to a 7-year-old who doesn’t want to be punished, and we can relate to the 7-year-old. Adults, especially those in responsible broadcasting positions, are supposed to have outgrown this tendency.

“When (Obama) said tonight that insurance executives are bad people. It took me aback because it was so harsh and, I think, unfair.”

No, harsh and unfair describe your on-air persona, and your mean-spirited, deceptive, hypocritical style of broadcasting. And ironically, we aren’t being harsh and unfair in describing you that way. We’re actually being something you can’t possibly claim to be — understated.

For — once again — actively distorting President Barack Obama’s words, we happily give Sean Hannity the Media Putz award.

Sean Hannity previously won the Media Putz on July 16, 2009, May 28, 2009, November 6, 2008, October 9, 2008, September 25, 2008, March 27, 2008, and September 13, 2007.

Written by democracysoup

September 17, 2009 at 6:00 am

Muntadhar al-Zaidi paid the price for throwing shoes at George W. Bush to win the Wings of Justice

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Originally published on WingsofJustice.com on September 16, 2009

Muntadhar al-Zaidi

Muntadhar al-Zaidi felt like he couldn’t take it anymore. Years of war and suffering in Iraq, started under false pretenses, plagued on his mind. He witnessed the devastation: orphans, widows, refugees. Here is a man who stood up.

You might not remember the name, but you certainly know what al-Zaidi did, throwing his shoes at George W. Bush during a visit to Iraq last December 14.

This week, al-Zaidi was released from prison for his actions, but his story was about torture, his own torture, allegations of being beaten with cables and pipes and tortured with electricity. All of this came shortly after guards removed him from that infamous news conference.

When you see his smile today, al-Zaidi has one of his front teeth missing. The abuse and torture continued while in jail, according to al-Zaidi.

People can certainly disagree with his tactic, yet still agree with the sentiment of what he did. Even al-Zaidi understands this.

“I am not a hero and I admit that,” al-Zaidi said. “I am a person with a stance. I saw my country burning.”

But what al-Zaidi did took courage. He certainly knew that what he did would warrant abuse and likely jail time. In reports, al-Zaidi noted that he did what he did as a promise for those who had suffered due to the war that he would avenge their loss.

And he did give hope to those in Iraq, the Arab world, and yes, even the United States that someone would stand up to George W. Bush, so that somehow Bush might see some expression, or display of protest, especially in Iraq of all places.

To be sure, al-Zaidi paid the price, not just physically, but also spending 9 months in jail. And al-Zaidi must have been a pretty good prisoner, since he was sentenced to three years (his sentence was reduced to a single year by an appellate court in April), and was released early due to good behavior.

Now that al-Zaidi is out of jail, he is concerned for his life and worries about U.S. intelligence agencies going after him. Whether that is true, the worry adds to the sacrifice made by al-Zaidi.

Inspiration was drawn by al-Zaidi’s actions to produce a symbolic, but more civilized reaction. On March 19 in Atlanta, there was a protest on the 6th anniversary of the Iraq invasion. As part of the protest, protesters were encouraged to throw their shoes at two Bush effigies. On top of that, organizers offered to donate any thrown shoes to charity.

Muntadhar al-Zaidi took an unconventional step to express dismay at an unjust policy to a person who was kept away from any form of protest. The shoe throwing didn’t hit his target, but it did send a message about the Iraq War that few others were able to display in front of George W. Bush. And al-Zaidi certainly paid a significant price. He also wins the Wings of Justice Award.

Written by democracysoup

September 16, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

David Broder wants to sweep away Bush/Cheney torture allegations, earning the Media Putz award

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Originally published on MediaPutz.com on September 10, 2009

David Broder

There is something to be said for longevity, unless of course, you stay past your prime. David Broder has stayed so long past his prime that his name is forever linked, so going on past the point of relevance will forever be known as pulling a “Broder.”

David Broder isn’t the only mainstream journalist who thinks Dick Cheney needs to be protected from an investigation of torture activities. But his rationale, hypocrisy, and his ability to convince the MSM that he has a shred of dignity make him much more dangerous.

In a column from last Thursday, Broder outlined his thought process for why Dick Cheney shouldn’t be “standing in the dock.”

“Cheney is not wrong when he asserts that it is a dangerous precedent when a change in power in Washington leads a successor government not just to change the policies of its predecessors but to invoke the criminal justice system against them.”

By Broder’s logic, we shouldn’t use the criminal justice system if laws were broken because the executive branch is being charged. But wait a minute, we seem to recall that he was upset about another president who broke a law.

“I called for Bill Clinton to resign when he lied to his Cabinet colleagues and to the country during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.”

After all, in this same column, Broder made what would seem to be an empathic statement of belief:

“I agree on the importance of accountability for illegal acts and for serious breaches of trust by government officials — even at the highest levels.”

But he goes on to tell us why Bush and Cheney shouldn’t be investigated.

“In times like these, the understandable desire to enforce individual accountability must be weighed against the consequences. This country is facing so many huge challenges at home and abroad that the president cannot afford to be drawn into what would undoubtedly be a major, bitter partisan battle over prosecution of Bush-era officials. The cost to the country would simply be too great.”

Ah, the Broder logic: when times are bad, we shouldn’t punish malfeasance (Watergate, Bush’s torture allegations) that happen to occur under Republicans.

Because after all, Broder did say this about the Bush/Cheney activities:

“Similarly, the administration’s resistance to setting and enforcing clear prohibitions on torture and inhumane treatment of detainees in the war on terrorism raises legitimate questions about its willingness to adhere to the rule of law. From the first days after Sept. 11, Bush has appeared to believe that he is essentially unconstrained. His oddly equivocal recent signing statement on John McCain’s legislation banning such tactics seemed to say he could ignore the plain terms of the law… If Judge Samuel Alito is right that no one is above the law, then Bush’s supposition deserves to be challenged.”

That was back on January 19, 2006. In 2009, Broder feel differently — because times are bad, missing the cruel irony that the policies of Bush/Cheney led to a lot of these current crises.

In the world of Broder, cost is when something bad happens to someone you like (Bush and Cheney), never mind the cost of not prosecuting, or even investigating egregious displays of willful lawlessness. The cost worldwide to our reputation has been severe, and will only get worse as time goes on.

After all, Broder didn’t like Clinton, so any damage to him, the presidency, or the country, justified or not, didn’t matter.

The hilarious part comes at the end of the column when he tries to justify his pretzel logic:

“When President Ford pardoned Nixon in 1974, I wrote one of the few columns endorsing his decision, which was made on the basis that it was more important for America to focus on the task of changing the way it would be governed and addressing the current problems. It took a full generation for the decision to be recognized by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and others as the act of courage that it had been.”

Except that the pardon wasn’t a courageous act; we never did get to find out definitively whether Richard Nixon planned the Watergate burglary or what his role was. This was information and context missing from the debate in later scandals, such as Iran-Contra (Reagan) and the countless George W. Bush scandals, including the torture allegations.

By hiding the truth and wanting to sweep serious problems underneath the national rug — in 1974 and 2009, David Broder violates everything that makes journalism what it should be. And once again, David Broder earns the Media Putz of the week award.

David Broder previously won the Media Putz on April 30, 2009.

Written by democracysoup

September 10, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in media criticism, MSM

Van Jones wanted to bring green jobs, but had to fight back against Glenn Beck for the Wings of Justice

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Originally published on WingsofJustice.com on September 9, 2009

Van Jones

Van Jones is in the news for resigning his post as Special Advisor for Green Jobs at the Council on Environmental Quality. Jones was the victim of a smear attack by Mr. Lack-of-Credibility Glenn Beck, solely because Beck was the target of an advertising boycott by ColorofChange.org, a group Jones founded in 2005, after Beck claimed that Obama is a racist.

It would be tempting to give Jones an award just for calling Republicans “a–holes” in a speech he gave well before joining the administration. Or even note the courage of signing a petition on whether Bush administration officials “may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war.” After all, is that any more out of the mainstream than having elected officials wonder if the president wasn’t born in the United States?

But when you peel away the layers of a story where Glenn Beck comes across as mean and petty, there is Van Jones, the person. The one who was working hard to make a difference in the economy, not just in bringing jobs, but adding “green jobs” to our workforce.

The experts tell us we are headed for yet another “jobless recovery.” Green jobs were supposed to give Americans of all different skill levels a chance at jobs that not only would help improve the quality of life, but also jobs that are steady and couldn’t be exported to India or China.

And by all accounts, Jones was the best person to fit this specific need that the Obama Administration likely created this position with Jones in mind.

After all, Jones is the founding president of Green for All and author of the book The Green Collar Economy.

It’s bad enough that the official unemployment is near 10%, and the more realistic number is closer to 20%. Watching an attack against someone who was going to improve that situation is disparaging.

Given how bad the situation is, we need the best and brightest inside government. Van Jones was going to be one of those people.

Princeton University politics and African-American studies professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell passionately speaks up on why Jones needed to remain on the inside of government.

“The EJ (environmental justice) movement was just beginning to gain a foothold in national politics, just beginning to develop a more cohesive and identifiable national platform, and Jones’ position within the White House was important to those efforts… Jones was an important ambassador of EJ to the White House. Not only did his position bring a particular kind of beltway legitimacy to EJ claims, but his presence might have helped close the “green gap” between black American concerns with pollution, land use, and health issues and the broader green movement concerns with global climate change. Linking those initiatives is critical to truly fair and comprehensive policies of sustainability.”

Praise of Jones comes not just from Democrats. Former eBay CEO and current Republican California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has proclaimed herself “a huge fan of Van Jones.”

Arianna Huffington thinks Jones is better off not tied into a government position.

Now, thanks to Glenn Beck, we’ve got that voice back. No longer tied to his desk with a sock in his mouth, Van is now freed to do what he does best: inspire and energize groups around the country. Student groups and labor groups and small business groups and middle class Americans everywhere who are losing jobs and losing homes and losing hope. He’s free to push with all his might and insight for the vision tens of millions of Americans tirelessly worked for during the presidential campaign — the vision they voted for in November — but which is now in danger of being drowned in the fetid political swamps of Washington.

But this effort on the part of the right-wing frenzy won’t stop at Van Jones, or the next person, or the one after that. And the reasons for trying to get people to quit won’t get any more significant.

As much as people can do outside the system, there was something to be said for getting things done within government. After eight years of the previous occupant, there is something to be said for displaying competent government in action.

“I think he was brought down. It’s too bad,” former Vermont governor Howard Dean said. “I think it’s a loss for the country.”

We hope that Jones will find a way to help outside the system. We need people such as Jones to help build our economy into something new and exciting. And we need someone with his expertise and experience to make this country a better place to work and live. And so, Van Jones is this week’s Wings of Justice award winner.

Written by democracysoup

September 9, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in media criticism, MSM