Wednesday, June 29, 2011

For It ... Until They're Against It

The reality of the political flip-flop -- as opposed to the comfy flip-flop that's popular in the summertime -- is nothing new; politicians have been changing their positions on issues for decades, particularly when an election approaches and a candidate is trying his or her best to pander to a segment of the electorate.

How else can one explain once-moderate Republicans like Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty tacking further to the right as the Republican Party tries to decide who's going to run against President Obama in the 2012 election?

But we've seen a ton of filp-flopping in the last three years, and just about all of it has centered around the Republican Party's deep-seeded mistrust (I'm reluctant to say hatred) for the president. Elected GOP leaders and their corporate backers are so set on making sure President Obama doesn't succeed that they're willing to abandon their own ideas once the president gives his stamp of approval.

Rather than list all of the examples myself, I'll allow Rachel Maddow to take over from here. She outlined this recent phenomenon on her show on Monday, noting the party's priorities of making President Obama look bad -- even if it means risking the country's economy.

Because let's face it, a broken economy benefits the GOP in the coming elections, suffering Americans be damned.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

'As I Was Saying ...'

"This is to be a newscast of contextualization, to be delivered with a viewpoint that the weakest citizen of this country is more important than the strongest corporation. That the nation is losing its independence through the malfeasance of one political party and the timidity of the other."

With that mission statement on Monday, June 20, 2011, one of the most reliable and forceful progressive voices in America returned to the airwaves. Keith Olbermann returned with the debut of the newest edition of Countdown With Keith Olbermann on Current TV Monday night, and save a new set, a new channel and some other small tweaks, the show seems to have changed little in the six months since it last aired on MSNBC.

Which is a good thing.

The theme music is (largely) the same, as is Olbermann's "Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?" opening. The format of the show is largely unchanged -- though "Oddball" is now called "Time Marches On." His "Worst Persons in the World" segment, complete with organ music, returns, though Olbermann seemed to be trying to make it extra-clear this segment is supposed to be sarcastic.

Olbermann had three of his contributors as guests -- filmmaker Michael Moore, author and former Nixon administration member John Dean and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas (now that he no longer had to worry about crybaby Joe Scarborough) -- and the topics ranged from Libya to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to the state of the GOP presidential candidates to a little MSNBC-bashing, for good measure.

By and large, this was the Countdown progressives knew and loved. Olbermann wasn't kidding in the press leading up to the premiere that the show would remain largely unchanged. This might've been simply because it was his first episode on a new network and Olbermann didn't want to stray too far from the familiar; it'll be interesting to see how the show evolves in the coming weeks and months.

I have two minor quibbles with Olbermann's return on Monday, the first of which actually has nothing to do with Olbermann himself. Current TV is not available through my cable provider, and seeing as how I live in an area where my cable company has a monopoly, my choices are either the cable company or satellite.

Current TV's website allows you to enter your zip code to find where the network is carried in your area. If it is not offered, Current gives you three ways in which to convince your provider to carry Current TV. Time will tell how successful those efforts are, but in the meantime, those of us without the network will have to find other ways to get our dose of Keith.

Secondly, when Olbermann and Dean were discussing Justice Thomas' glaring conflicts of interest, Olbermann raised the question as to why Congressional Democrats were not screaming for Justice Thomas to recuse himself from cases in which there are conflicts of interest and/or resign. It was a fair question to ask, considering how Republicans would smell blood in the water if a liberal justice were accused of the same thing; however, one very important point was ignored.

There was a member of Congress -- a Democrat, no less -- who was hounding Justice Thomas regarding his conflicts of interest. But he resigned last week, in part because his own party wouldn't support him amid a scandal that was, admittedly, disturbingly tame.

So not only are Democrats not pressuring Justice Thomas, but they kicked out the one guy who was. This is that timidity Olbermann mentioned above.

All in all, it's wonderful to have Keith Olbermann back on television. There are legitimate concerns about Current TV's reach, or what Olbermann can do with a little-known network that isn't available everywhere, but if his previous work in establishing and re-branding ESPN and MSNBC are any indication, it just might work.

Moreover, Olbermann's no-nonsense approach and adherence to the facts is desperately needed in today's media climate, and his frustration gives a voice to progressives who can no longer find such a passionate, forceful voice among their own representatives.

This is why I fill so much space on this blog with Olbermann's work; his voice fills a void that desperately needed to be filled; if the progressive we put in office will not speak up and fight for us, we need someone in the media who will -- and Olbermann, all his personal issues be damned, is that person.

Liberals need Olbermann; more importantly, though, the country needs him.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Matter of Priorities

You will find no condemnations of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) on this page with regards to his Twitter photo scandal. You will find no sophomoric jokes, no links to any of the stories or calls for his resignation.

You will find no mocking of Sarah Palin and Donald Trump getting together in New York for crappy pizza. You will find no shaming of the former Alaska governor's continued ignorance of all things American -- in this instance, the history of Paul Revere.

Sure, these topics are salacious, amusing and borderline pathetic. But they're not important.

They don't matter as much as the debate over raising the debt ceiling (a prospect that, most of the time, is hardly controversial). Or the debate over the Republicans' plan to replace Medicare with a voucher program for seniors to purchase private health insurance. Or the latest jobs report, continuing the narrative of a jobless recovery.

The media should instead be focusing on Republican tactics -- both on the federal and state level -- to restrict access to choice and defund Planned Parenthood. Or the upcoming debate on (once again) letting the Bush-era tax rates expire.

The above topics are the sorts of things that need to be reported on and discussed. The beltway media and the rest of the country's journalists (setting aside sports and entertainment reporters, because of the specialized nature of their fields) should be focusing on actual issues right now, regardless of how amusing or sexy they might be.

Rep. Weiner's package has no bearing on this country's unemployment rate, and since Palin has as much of a chance at winning the presidency as I do, she's not nearly as important as making sure we reduce the federal deficit without harming this country's middle class and seniors.

Every journalist or pundit who has spent air time or printing ink or web storage on the likes of Rep. Weiner and Palin instead of any of the other topics mentioned above have failed -- both their profession and this country. It is but another example of everything that is wrong with American media (and, when extrapolated, everything wrong with American politics).

People need jobs. People need to know the economy is recovering and they're not one decision away from financial ruin. People need to be reassured that the banks and the corporations and the insurance companies can't screw them over anymore. People need to know President Obama and Congress are on their side, not the monied interests.

People do not need to know what Rep. Weiner is packing. People do not need to know that many middle schoolers have a better understanding of American history than Palin.

Shame you, mainstream media. Shame every last one of you.