Archive for progressive politics

Stop Making Sense



Once again, I feel as if I've entered Opposite World, where up is down, in is out and everything is completely backwards. I didn't meant to quote the Talking Heads, but it's the lower case talking heads who are making my brain hurt right now.

First of all, the talking head making the most sense about Iraq right now is... Shephard Smith!?!?! Yes, the man who is relegated to keeping his sexuality safely hidden in the closet because his employer is Faux News is, once again, speaking the truth. This time, he's saying what I'm thinking about Iraq.

If that wasn't mind blowing enough, how about Mark Halperin talking sense to Paul Bremer about Iraq and the role of the US in that troubled part of the world!

If you were pleasantly surprised  by those two segments, welcome to the club. Unfortunately then, you'll likely be sadly disappointed by the answers I got from General Wesley Clark. The former NATO commander and presidential candidate apparently thinks the way I'd have expected the two men mentioned above to think... When I asked Gen. Clark what we should do in Iraq, he unequivocally called for "air strikes."

I know, he is a retired US Army General and, as such, is conditioned to think that way. But I expected more out of a career military man who opposed entering Iraq in the first place and actually seemed refreshing during his presidential run in 2004. Then again, he did participate in a sickening celebration of war on NBC in a strange "reality show" called "Stars Earn Stripes." I thought then that he had lost his mind. Now I know that his mind has been darkened by the fog of war.

In an interesting juxtaposition of ideas, Chelsea Manning published an Op-Ed in yesterday's NY Times explaining that "the United States military controlled the media coverage of its long involvement there and in Afghanistan," and urges people to be skeptical of their coverage now.

In the first hour, Howie Klein joined in as he does each Monday morning for the Steve Israel Hour, sponsored by Little Debbie. Today, we discussed the incompetence of Steve Israel who never saw the Cantor crushing coming, and did everything he could to protect Cantor from a Democratic challenger. Plus next week's primaries could bring us a real progressive as the Democratic nominee in the MD governor's race in Heather Mizeur, but probably won't.

Tomorrow, it's @GottaLaff time... Seriously, we all need some laughs right about now... Tuesday, 10-noon ET radio or not!

Listen to the full show here:


MSNBC Rising


Andy Marquis, reporter for, is our guest blogger of the day. He used to consider himself a Republican but not any more.  He changed his voter registration to Independent in 2011 and says that’s how it will remain.

Here's his latest guest post. I don't agree with everything he said here, such as equating Rachel Maddow with Bill O'Reilly (she relies on facts and is civil and fair to her guests, for example, so apples/oranges), nor do I think for a minute that MSNBC is a liberal network. But just as Current does, it gets kudos for hiring progressives to host their own shows, and that is a vast improvement over other cable stations (bolding mine):

MSNBC Rising

In the past few years, there’s been a shift in the direction NBC’s cable news network, MSNBC, has taken.  For one, the network has built an identity which has been missing for years.  As a result of the decision to become the anti-FOX, MSNBC’s become more progressive… and their ratings have progressively increased.  It’s symbolic of a demographic and ideological shift going on in the United States.

“During the first week post-election, MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9 p.m. ET and “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10 p.m. ET were both #1 in the A25-54 demo, topping both Fox News Channel and CNN,” a press release from MSNBC stated. “For the week of November 12-16, Maddow was #1 with 480,000 A25-54 while FNC’s “Hannity” was second with 439,000 A25-54 and CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” placed third with 181,000 A25-54. “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10 p.m. had 396,000 A25-54. FNC’s “On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren” was second with 362,000 A25-54 and CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” was third with 178,000 A25-54.”

MSNBC’s rise has been building up for some time.  For much of its time on air, MSNBC existed as a back marker, even with innovative programs like A Region in Conflict on its air.  It was in 2003, during the Iraq war, that MSNBC began phasing in a new nightly news broadcast that would become the hallmark of its lineup, “Countdown with Keith Olbermann”.  A couple years later, after the failures following Hurricane Katrina, Olbermann orated an on-air essay, “The City of Louisiana”.  Olbermann became more outspoken against the Bush Administration and his show quickly took a left turn and, as it did so, his ratings increased.  The writing was on the wall.

MSNBC progressively began its transformation in to the progressive network it currently is, hiring people like Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz (who would later replace Olbermann), Lawrence O’Donnell, Reverend Al Sharpton and Alex Wagner.  They changed their morning strategy, after Don Imus was fired for racially insensitive remarks made towards the Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team.  With that came the birth of Morning Joe which has become one of the most influential programs in American public policy.

With a new slogan that debuted in 2010 (“Lean Forward”), a new weekend strategy and a new dayside strategy, MSNBC’s transformation was complete.

That takes us to last week, and several other weeks prior to that.  MSNBC has had victories over FOX News Channel in terms of ratings but they’ve been few and far. There’s been no denial, FOX is the heavyweight and nobody can top them.  However, Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz are doing just that, and it speaks volumes about the changing demographics.

Maddow and O’Donnell won the Age 25-54 demographic, or as networks refer to it, “the money demo” but still were behind in overall numbers.  FOX’s ratings and the sudden relegation of Hannity and Van Sustren almost look like the Republican Party’s relegated status in American politics.  FOX’s audience appears to be genuinely older than MSNBC’s audience.  FOX appears to have a problem bringing in a new generation of viewers, kind of like the Republican Party has a problem bringing in a new generation of voters.

See, MSNBC and FOX both speak ideologically to certain sides of the American electorate.  Rachel Maddow has quickly become to liberals what Bill O’Reilly is to conservatives.  MSNBC eloquently defines the progressive talking points just as FOX defines the conservative talking points.

There are fundamental differences though – differences that favor MSNBC.  Shows like “NOW with Alex Wagner” and “The Cycle” are younger, give a voice to both sides in a way shows like “The Five” and “America Live” try to but don’t achieve.  Perhaps the viewers are tired of one side being shouted down (as is the case on “The Five”) in the same way as the voters are tired of the lack of civility in Washington, DC.

The rise of MSNBC represents a seismic shift in American television news, and it should not be ignored.


Spot On "New Rules for Radicals"


Bill Moyers and I agree completely on this-

"But there is an antidote, on our website We will link you to a vision of hope. Check it out. Sara Robinson, a senior editor of, has written an essay entitled “New Rules for Radicals: Ten Ways to Spark Change in a Post-Occupy World.” My hunch is you’ll cease to weep over our sinking ship of state, and start working to repair it."

We should all print out Sara Robinson's great article and keep in it our pockets. Nurturing innovators and great thinkers as long as we can is the way to cultivate great change. This is what we need to succeed (just a great point out of 10, go read them all).

7. Find and nurture innovators.

We’re building a lot of new stuff very fast right now. New politics, new media, new cities, a new economic paradigms, a new relationship with the planet — it’s daunting. We need new answers much faster than we’re able to generate them.

There are people in our midst who are really good at this stuff, and times like this tend to be good ones for them. In more stable times, these folks are often pushed to the side: they often look and talk goofy, they have weird ideas, they don’t fit in, and nobody really gets what they’re talking about a lot of the time. Also: trailing in their wake you’ll find quite a few successes, along with a few stunning failures — the sure sign of somebody who’s comfortable taking a lot of risks, and not afraid of bombing out.

Genius comes in all ages, genders and colors. It’s the old Boomer codger who’s got a thousand tricks up his sleeve, and forgotten more than you’ll ever know. It’s the young kid who’s never been told it can’t be done, so she just went ahead and figured out how to do it. I’ve seen world-changing political innovation come from farmworker organizers in Phoenix, women’s activists in Atlanta and rural organizers from Montana and Oregon. There are often no markings on the package it comes in that give you a clue as to what’s going on inside, so you have to drop your biases, and look closely.

We need to seek out these folks and put their amazing brains to work. To do their best work, they need time and space to think. The basic necessities of life. Really good and worthy problems to solve. Permission to let their minds wander, unfettered and free. Permission to fail spectacularly. And then fail again. And again, over and over, because really complicated problems usually require outrageous quantities of failure before success is achieved. The process takes time, patience, and faith; this is what innovation runs on.