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Posts Tagged ‘Al Gore’

An open letter to liberals—and liberals who call themselves progressives.

When the West Coast map lit up brilliantly, beautifully blue on Nov. 4, 2008, pushing Barack Obama over 270 electoral votes, millions of us experienced a wave of political euphoria the likes of which we never imagined we’d live to feel.

Especially giddy were those of us old enough to remember another, bleaker November night in 1980, when a Hollywood second-stringer named Ronald Reagan swept into the White House, ushering in decades of right-wing policies that carried us into wars; greased the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and working poor; empowered a Christian fundamentalist, social conservative revival that threatened to turn the entire country into Dayton, Tenn., circa 1925; and validated a Lee Atwater-Karl Rove politics of the Big Lie and personal destruction that transformed “liberal” into a synonym for weak and unpatriotic—even, paradoxically, to many who tightly embraced liberal programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Oh, we got  jazzed about Bill Clinton and Al Gore in ’92. But Clinton’s centrism—many feel he governed as a Republican—his genuine personal failings and the relentlessly witch-hunting Right would drain much of the promise from his presidency and leave many liberals disappointed.  With the Supreme Court’s election of George W. Bush in 2000, and the 9/11 attacks, liberal Democrats became more cowed than ever.

But with the Obama ascendancy—after eight endless, disastrous years of Bush-Cheney and three decades of Reaganism—it was our turn. A revival. The dawn of a new liberal/progressive era.

Or was it? Many liberals are driven to distraction by President Obama’s almost obsessive desire to rise above the fray, to be the adult in the room, to reach consensus. We’re pissed because he’s too cozy with Wall Street; we’re pissed about the Bush Tax Cut extension; we’re pissed about the lack of a public option in the Health care bill; we’re pissed about Afghanistan, and we’re pissed about Gitmo and Bradley Manning. We’re pissed that he didn’t do more to plug up the BP leak. We’re pissed that he hasn’t done more to back unions in the Midwest. And in the Mideast, we’re either pissed that Obama didn’t intervene quickly enough to help the Libyan opposition—or we’re pissed that he intervened at all.

Now we’re preparing to be pissed—with good reason, perhaps—that our “middle way” POTUS won’t stand up to the Right and its resolve to destroy Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and all other remnants of the New Deal—and transform the USA into Kochistan.

Personally I agree with some, though not all, of the above. I remain a strong supporter of the President; perhaps my innate realism/pessimism kept me from expecting—and fantasizing—too much. Maybe President Obama hasn’t been a liberal messiah. But he has been an enlightened leader who has accomplished more legislatively than any President since Lyndon Johnson. This while dealing with a dysfunctional Senate, a rightist-rigged Supreme Court and a conservative propaganda juggernaut that has a frightening percentage of the electorate convinced that he’s un-American—or not American, and therefore not legitimate, at all.

(For more on POTUS’ accomplishments , check out http://whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar.com.)

How many of us would trade Obama for the deepest, darkest days of Bush-Cheney. Or a return to Reagan? Or, even more terrifying, any of the rightist ideologues now driving the Republican Party, zealots against whom Reagan himself might well lose a GOP Primary.

Why are we saddled with these Koch-and-corporate backed Teabagging extremists? Why are wingnuts like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann given any legitimacy? Why do we see a GOP House trying to eviscerate women’s reproductive rights; why do we see right-wing governors like Scott Walker, Rick Scott, Rick Snyder Paul LePage and John Kasich wage war on workers, teachers, firefighters and the middle class, while big business and the wealthy get fatter and fatter? Why do we hear about rolling back child labor laws? Why the talk bout “shared sacrifice”—that is for all but the richest Americans, the ones who can afford it? Why are we threatened with the destruction of social safety nets we foolishly took for granted—and for which many of us have paid for many years?

Well, one huge reason was the “enthusiasm gap” in the 2010 midterms. When millions of Democrats and other moderates-to-liberals said “Meh”  and stayed home, while fired up Teabaggers and righty extremists turned out in droves—along with independents who fell for the bullshit they heard on Fox News, and the lies in Koch-Chamber of Commerce-Rove-funded attack ads.

Whatever the level of one’s disappointment with Obama, the experience of 2010 should be traumatizing enough for millions of stay-at-homes not to make the same mistake again. Especially while the GOP is using the “voter fraud” myth to disenfranchise as many young and minority voters—Democratic leaning voters—as possible.

I still believe that in a second term, with a restored Congressional majority, Barack Obama can accomplish even more than he has in the past 26 months. And even if you remain disillusioned, even it depresses you to vote “against” the GOP instead of “for” Obama, as you did in ’08—get over it.

Think of the havoc a Pawlenty, Romney, a Rubio or whoever else can wreak. On social programs and women’s rights. On the middle class and workers. On the already corrupt Supreme Court. On international affairs.

If you think 2010 was bad….

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A little over a month after starting a hiatus from the political and media fray, Keith Olbermann is back—online, at least—with his new FOK News Channel (FOK=Friends of Keith, along with the obvious dig at a loathed competitor) blog. As the former Countdown host—and new Current TV host and chief news officer—admits, there are some kinks to work out, and some bells and whistles to add, including video.

For liberals awaiting Olbermann’s late-spring Current launch, the site is a welcome development—and so far, for this reader, a delight. Since Keith’s abrupt departure from MSNBC we’ve seen veritable earthquakes of news—at home and abroad, in the Mideast, the Midwest and elsewhere—and leftish viewers have missed his voice. The humor, the ferocity, and yes, the healthy ego—part of Keith’s charm for some of us, intolerable arrogance to his detractors.

If you’re a moderate-to-liberal Democrat, Keith’s ascension during the Bush years was a tonic. After weathering years of Fox News, Limbaugh and other coast-to-coast Righty radio demagogues, years of trickle-down Reagan worship and phony, bumper-sticker patriots shilling for billionaires, it was exciting to find a liberal voice who didn’t sound like Merkin Muffley.

What FOKNewsChannel offers that TV naturally does not, is the chance to read Keith’s work and see in black and white what a sharp writer he is. For those who like their web material short and snappy, his First Guess columns—comments on the day’s news, this week, three posts on Wisconsin—may require a bit of patience.

But if you enjoy writing and reading actual words on an actual page (well, screen) it’s worth it. Here’s an excerpt from his second post, concerning the mainstream corporate media’s tardy response to the unrest in Wisconsin—THE domestic story of the day:

 

Media at the moment – especially television – honors the foreign correspondent, the disaster correspondent, and the feel-good correspondent. The all-too-real dangers and terrors of reporting from revolutions is not to be disparaged and is not being so here. Other than the waste of time (“that’s when Porfirio Altamirano learned that a horse, not a dog, can be man’s best friend”) the feel-good correspondent isn’t too much of a blight. But you can also go to New Orleans, have yourself filmed walking around the reeking hulks of a city for twenty minutes, show half the video tape, and proclaim yourself a grizzled field reporter and an edgy political commentator – and your bosses will agree with you and turn it into a promo.

 

But a complicated, essential domestic political story offers no opportunity for getting photographed helping out poor wet people. It has the perils of alienating right wing viewers (who grow as an audience percentage simply by dint of the reality that the left, and the youth, have been abandoning television as a primary means of information consumption for the last 15 years).

You don’t need a scorecard to figure out what “correspondents” he’s talking about. One attraction of Al Gore’s Current is that it’s not beholden to corporations—GE, Time-Warner, NewsCorp. Hopefully Keith will get to use that freedom to the best of his potential. He certainly won’t be boring.

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It’s been a month since Keith Olbermann’s departure from MSNBC, and many liberal cable-news junkies have changed the status of their relationship with the station to “It’s complicated.”

Keith’s ardent fans delight in the news that, sometime in late spring, he’ll be returning to his old 8 p.m., time slot with a show on Al Gore’s Current TV, for which he’s also serving as Chief News Officer.

In the meantime, the former Countdown host is spending some of his “non-compete” limbo on Twitter, posting links and 140-characters-or-less comments on some of the astonishing news events—the Mideast, Wisconsin, et. al.—unfolding since his exit, while keeping his chops sharp chiding Congressional Republicans

(@KeithOlbermann: Sen. McConnell: “Olbermann is out, and Reagan is in.” Olbermann: “Olbermann is back, and Reagan is dead and he was a lousy president.”);

and smacking down nasty Tweets from right-wingnuts.

@RightWinger: “Hey Keith, what’s happening in #Wisconsin is democracy. You ought to try it. We love Scott Walker. Keith your a dick.”

@KeithOlbermann: “No no – nobody following your childish driveltweets – THAT’s democracy.”

Keith also Tweets on everything from baseball (he continues his delightful Baseball Nerd blog) to Manhattan sunsets (photos included).

But what of MSNBC in the wake of his departure? Sadly, the early returns suggest that some of Keith’s audience has, for the moment, tuned out. This today from The Hollywood Reporter:

“Ratings for Lawrence O’Donnell‘s The Last Word, which replaced Countdown With Keith Olbermann, are down approximately 10 percent from results for the same time a year ago when Olbermann was in the coveted 8 p.m. time slot. O’Donnell’s ratings are also down 22% from Olbermann’s performance in the fourth quarter of 2010, reports the New York Times. Both ratings drops are within the viewer age range of 25 and 54, which is the ideal target market for news programs.

Of course it’s a tough act to follow for O’Donnell. A self-described socialist (albeit a pragmatic one) he has a varied resume—onetime Chief of Staff for the Senate Finance Committee and co-creator of The West Wing (long married to actress Kathryn Harrold).

Judging anecdotally—from the Friends of Keith (#FOK) on Twitter—it’s true that some of Olbermann’s fans haven’t quite taken to O’Donnell, which I think is a shame. I enjoyed his 10 p.m. show. He’s smart, articulate and gets some intriguing guests—including far-righties who don’t normally venture onto MSNBC, like off-the-charts-extremist Rep. Steve King and the execrable Ann Coulter—and with whom Lawrence gets into occasional shouting matches. To emphasize his fiery side, perhaps in an effort to reclaim some Keith defectors, MSNBC now uses as a promo spot an excerpt from O’Donnell’s argument with Arizona Rep. Trent Franks over ammunition control.

I hope O’Donnell hangs in there—but of course, if he stays in the 8 p.m. time slot, he’ll go head-to-head with Keith. And that will be a testing time for MSNBC’s entire primetime lineup. By all accounts Rachel Maddow’s ratings are holding firm since KO’s exit—and she’s been fierce, in her cerebral way, particularly about the GOP assault on women’s reproductive rights, as well as Egypt. Even after Keith’s up and running at Current, I suspect she’ll hang on to her loyal fan base.

A  question mark is Ed Schultz, whose ratings reportedly, have been rocky in O’Donnell’s 10 p.m. slot. I think he brings something special to the table—like Olbermann, he’s combative, and he wears his heart on his sleeve. He seemed a bit strait-jacketed at first, especially once his entertaining “Psycho Talk” segment was (for whatever reason) discontinued.

But the Battle of Wisconsin  highlights Big Ed’s big passion—fighting for the middle class, the blue-collar and white collar workers who’ve been getting screwed for 30 years—three decades that saw their incomes remain flat, while the gap between the rich and everyone else widened into a canyon. Ed’s reporting, more than anyone, made Wisconsin into a national story—even as many mainstream media ignored it.

Maybe Gov. Scott Walker’s union-busting power play—a Labor vs. GOP battle that will play out in Ohio, Indiana and many other states over the next two years—will give Schultz the boost he needs. We need someone who can call out Rush Limbaugh in language he can understand. When “the Drugster,” as Ed calls him, called Wisconsin workers “freeloaders” and “parasites,” and suggested they were leading an “anti-democracy movement,” this was Ed’s response:

If you want to follow the Limbaugh and the Becks of the world, and you want to turn your back on firefighters, turn your back on police officers, turn your back on nurses, turn your back on brothers and sisters who have stood in solidarity to fight for the middle class in America? Is that wrapping yourself in the flag? Hey Rush: why don’t you wrap your fat ass in the flag on Monday?”

I’d hate to lose that. Let’s hope Liberal-leaning cable news is big enough for Keith Olbermann and MSNBC, the network he, more than anyone, helped create.

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Well, it turned out (see previous post) that Keith Olbermann’s Tweet on yesterday’s Huffington Post-AOL deal was, indeed, a hint about “the Next Chapter” in his controversial, sometimes mercurial and brilliant—at least to many of us politically left of the 410-foot sign in center field—career.

Yesterday, @KeithOlbermann Tweeted: “Am I missing something or has the primary appeal of The Huffington Post been its independence from big $ media?”

Today, Keith O. announced his new venture, as Chief News Officer at Al Gore and Joel Hyatt’s Current TV, the public affairs station for which he’ll also host a primetime news and commentary show, airing later this year (after Keith’s non-compete agreement with MSNBC expires)

So, it seems that once again, we’ll be able to hear pundit Richard Wolffe intone: “Good evening, Keith.”

For those of you who missed the press conference (like me—I was at my shrink), Keith expanded on yesterday’s 140-character-or-less comment:

“Nothing is more vital to a free America than a free media, and nothing is more vital to my concept of a free media than news produced independently of corporate interference. In Current Media, Al Gore and Joel Hyatt have created the model truth-seeking entity.”

In a conference call with reporters, Keith added: “None of this should be directed at my nine full-time previous employers — there is nothing wrong with people making money and corporations being involved in covering information—provided there is an avenue in which those marketing forces are not the deciding factor in what we are doing. Current is not only the leading independent network, it’s the only one. To underscore and support that is my great privilege.”

Asked  how he was stifled at previous jobs, K.O. stressed, “I don’t want to imply that there were massive repressive forces working against individual stories. This is the time for me in my career to continue to evolve, to continue to do a better job, and what is required is an opportunity to work in a much more pristine environment. Not to criticize what is being done elsewhere.”

Olbermann’s move should certainly provide a huge boost to five-year-old Current, which reaches only 60 million U.S. households and has struggled to gain a media foothold. And for his fans, it’s reassuring to know he’ll be offering his biting, incisive—sometimes delightfully over-the-top—commentary on the 2012 presidential race, right-wing extremism, and the continuing disintegration of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. To that end, Keith told reporters in a conference call that he will, indeed, feature a segment on the order of “Worst Persons in the World”—albeit under another monicker.

And who knows, MSNBC fans may see some contributions from our old pal David Shuster, who left the network after a dispute and is launching a new investigative journalism venture on the internet. As Shuster Tweeted this morning, “Nothing in my investigative journalism venture would preclude me from helping KO. I would be honored.”

Here’s an overview of Keith’s responsibilities from Current’s press release.

“Keith Olbermann’s show will lead a programming slate on Current that includes original and acquired TV series aimed at an influential adult audience. Current features compelling stories about everyday heroes and ordinary people in extraordinary situations, and takes you to sometimes dangerous and always intriguing places. Current shines a light on controversial subjects, tackling hot issues of the day in a thoughtful and sometimes humorous way. Current engages its viewers by sparking debate and discussion, and via interactive formats that allow viewers to inform its stories.”

Here’s Al Gore’s statement: “Keith Olbermann is a gifted thinker, an amazing talent and a powerful communicator, and having him tap Current as his new home is exciting and very much in line with the core vision we founded this network on: To engage viewers with smart, provocative and timely programming. In a world where there are fewer and fewer opportunities to hear truly distinct, unfettered voices on television, we are delighted to provide Keith with the independent platform and freedom that Current can, and does uniquely offer.”

Gore, also on a press conference call, added, “Olbermann signature is intelligent commentary. He is truly one of the unfettered voices on TV. Keith is one of those rare voices, his voice is truly unique…Keith Olbermann is one of our society’s most courageous talents. He speaks truth to power. He calls them as he sees them. He speaks his mind.

Here’s some background on Current, plus a sampling of their lineup via current.com

About Current Media:

Current Media, the Peabody-and Emmy Award-winningtelevision and online network founded in 2005 by Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, engages viewers with smart, provocative and timely programming -stories that no one else is telling in ways that no one else is telling them. Current’s programming shines a light where others won’t dare and boldly explores important subjects — opening minds, sparking conversations and forming deep connections with its viewers. The channel’s audience is comprised of affluent, curious, social and connected adults who crave the kind of entertaining, enlightening, witty and informative programming found on Current’s TV and online properties. Current is now available via cable and satellite TV in 75 million households worldwide – 60 million households in the US – through distribution partners Comcast (Channel 107); Time Warner ; DirecTV (Channel 358 nationwide); Dish Network (Channel 196 nationwide); Verizon and AT&T. In the UK and Ireland, Current is available on BSkyB (Channel 183) and Virgin Media (Channel 155), and in Italy, Current is available on Sky Italia (Channel 130).

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WEDNESDAYS 8:30/7:30c

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