Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Remembering Teddy

Cross-posted from AlterNet

Photo Credit: Jocelyn Augustino

I remember thinking, he seems so much smaller in person. The year was 2003, and I stood directly behind Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on a makeshift stage constructed in front of the Department of Labor, at a rally for International Human Rights Day convened by the AFL-CIO.

I was on staff at the American Federation of Government Employees at the time, and was a member of the team that had put together the rally.

Those were dark days indeed for union workers. The Bush administration was in full throttle in its bid to take down the unions, and it had a special vendetta in its dark heart for unions representing government workers.

"We want this administration to stop being the most anti-worker, anti-labor administration that we have seen," Kennedy said.

Kennedy had just introduced the Employee Free Choice Act, a piece of legislation, yet to see the light of day, that continues to rankle the right. He dressed humbly, in a windbreaker that did little to stave off the bitter cold of a rainy December day in Washington, D.C.

"We have an agenda: the respect and dignity of workers in the United States," Kennedy told the crowd of 2,000 who gathered against the gloom. "As long as I have a voice and as long as I have a vote, I will be with you."

And he was. Today, the Employee Free Choice Act still contends for passage because of Kennedy. But that's just the politics. That day, his bond with regular people was apparent. On that stage, we had a full roster of workers from a range of unions -- parking attendants, hospital workers, airport screeners, Defense Department employees -- and Kennedy shook hands with all of them, and stuck around to hear their stories.

And that's just a glimpse of his commitment to working women and men. I hardly need to mention his commitment to health-care reform.

It's said that in exchange for his endorsement of Barack Obama for president, Kennedy exacted a promise from the young Illinois senator to make health care the centerpiece of his legislative agenda. And Kennedy didn't let Obama forget it. In his endorsement speech, Kennedy said, "With Barack Obama, we will break the old gridlock and finally make health care what it should be in America—a fundamental right for all, not just an expensive privilege for the few."

As I stood on that stage with Kennedy, the cold rain falling on me as we followed up the speeches with our motley rendition of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," I thought, this is bliss.

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Washington Post columnists say Hillary Clinton deserves a bottle of Mad Bitch beer

Cross-posted from The Huffington Post.

By now, you're likely familiar with the parade of racists, sexists, conspiracy theorists and hatemongers on the payrolls of mainstream media: CNN's Lou Dobbs advances the claims of unhinged birthers; FOX's Glenn Beck calls the president a racist; MSNBC pays as an analyst Pat Buchanan, who says slavery was good for black folks. Not to be left behind, ABC welcomed to its This Week roundtable right-winger Michelle Malkin, who has referred to the first lady as President Obama's "cron[y] of color," and is advancing the conspiracy theory that Democratic health-care reform is designed to euthanize old people.

Bottom line: hate sells.

Eager to bring eyeballs to its Web site, the Washington Post this week got in on the act, producing a video featuring two star columnists, Chris Cillizza (reportedly a nice guy) and Dana Milbank (reportedly not), that suggests at a future White House beer summit, Hillary Clinton be served a brew called Mad Bitch.

Once the video began circulating through the blogs, the Washington Post chickened out and pulled the video from its site -- without apology to viewers, and apparently without disciplinary action for the columnists and producer Gaby Bruna.

This should be a huge story -- two respected, important columnists for a major media outlet all but call the secretary of state a bitch -- but corporate media would have to be willing to critique two of their own were the story to get legs. Not likely to happen.

In fact, a day after the video was pulled, Chris Cillizza was featured on the roundtable of this Sunday's CNN show, State of the Union, and was not asked a single question about his role in Mad-Bitchgate.

If the presidential campaign of 2008 was the mainstream media's teachable moment, it seems the wrong lesson was learned. Instead of the corrective soul-searching one would hope for among executives and editors at major media outlets as their on-air figures grappled with their inner sexists and inner racists during prime time, media bigs seem to have reached the conclusion that hatred sells.


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