Thursday, April 23, 2009

Detroit to Rachel – Ouch That One Hurt!

Ok – Let me set this up right. I’m a huge Rachel Maddow fan. I enjoyed her radio program, and often quote her and credit her insightful interviews on my show (i.e. this is not an Alec Baldwin thing). I respect intelligent, likeable women like Rachel who have been able to break the male political host opinion barrier as she has done. Kudos.

But I gotta say….On my show over the last two days we’ve had this raging dispute among listeners as to whether there will be enough media oxygen to allow both the prosecutions of Bush administration officials for violations on torture and passing cap-and-trade (a/k/a climate change a/k/a the biggest preventable future threat to humanity) legislation, or whether we should time them with a little more political calculation. We could have a good (and rightfully deserved) bloodletting now, which will make us all feel better, but Obama’s capital reserves will surely pay a price that any stress test could readily detect, and we’ll spend all our energy bailing out the Dems in a partisan food fight while watching our dream of finally passing cap and trade (READ: kiss green jobs, oil independence and a rescued planet bye-bye).

We were essentially debating tipping points in media coverage. Tonight I got my answer. I live in Detroit. The Detroit Free Press headlines in the local paper TODAY included these gems.

  • “GM to furlough all US plants for 9 weeks.” Sales down 49% in Q1. Won’t make June 1st debt payment. Thousands to lose wages and rely on state unemployment (which is already well over 12%).

(Note to the US: Michigan has been in a technical recession for eight years, not one like the rest of the country).

  • “Anxiety over Chrysler’s fate runs high. Health care, plant closings, pay concerns as April 30th deadline draws near.”
  • After repeated “Let’em go bankrupt” rants from cable TV pundits, and polls show 75% of Americans don’t seem to care if their companies fail .
  • “Governor Granholm: Bailed out banks suffocating. Chrysler: Who knew that bailing out the banks would mean that they would kill the auto industry,” said Granholm.
  • “Cash-for-Clunkers plans run into competing legislation.” (Turns out that even though the Big 3, the UAW and environmentalists are all behind this bill, “foreign automakers are strongly opposed” and it’s holding up because they want US tax dollars to help them even though they’ve been subsidized for decades by their own governments.)

So, an industry that created the middle class and is now desperately trying to re-invent itself is being held hostage by banks that care only about liquidating an industry, an event that will have enormous shockwaves on the economy. And people, good, decent hard-working people, and businesses have pulled together in a time of crisis in this, the most favored of punching bag cities to pull through together.

(When GM could no longer afford to sponsor the Detroit Tigers Fountain for $2 million dollars, Little Caesar’s Pizza and Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, who had offers from foreign car companies, declined and has donated the sponsorship to all Big Three automakers in a show of solidarity for the love of a city that apparently the whole country reviles.)

We’re now eight days and counting from the Katrina-like slow motion collapse of a state – and real human suffering will be a consequence. (Chrysler’s deadline is May 1st, but we all know the domino effect with suppliers and the other Big Two.)

So after a good 40 minutes on Rachel Maddow’s show on the torture memo reporting (courtesy of our beloved Carl Levin), I was beyond shocked that the next story was devoted to ridiculing the perfect 0-16 record of the Detroit Lion’s football team and the fact that the team had changed its mascot design a bit to “be scarier.”

Not eight days until auto Armageddon, no rallying cry to maintain the manufacturing base in our country, no concern for the legacy of the autoworkers who lost their lives to form unions to give us a middle class and became the arsenal of democracy during World War II, the same retired folks who stand to lose the lion’s share of their pension and health care. Hell, even Arnold Schwarzenegger was here this week and said he believed that Detroit was not far behind in building the advanced technology to meet even California’s emission standards and deserved the government’s help to get there.

But just eight days from collapse, we got ripped because our football team totally sucks. Ouch, my friend Rachel. There are real people here who are hurting in ways the rest of the country hasn’t yet seen (and we don’t want them to). That was a kick in the gut to a player down on the field. I’m sure you didn’t intend it that way, but someone from Detroit had to say “ouch.”

And I can’t help but think my point about media oxygen and tipping points just may have some merit.

Monday, April 20, 2009

For Mattresses Only

On Friday's show, I was talking to James Boyce about the tea parties, and when the subject of Janeane Garofalo's appearance on Keith Olbermann's show came up, I mentioned that I thought Janeane was a little over the top in that she essentially called all Republicans racists. (NOTE: I did not call her a hater; I called her “over the top” with her comments.) [Start listening at approximately 14 minutes by going to this link, clicking on Friday's show (SkinnerShow-(17-4-2009).mp3) and giving it a few minutes to open up. Or, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and get it from there.]

(If you didn't catch Countdown Thursday night, here's the link)

And, wow! I got some nasty e-mails from a few listeners condemning me for not marching in lockstep and condemning and labeling everyone else right back. It was quite a show, and I admit, I’m a pretty sensitive person, so it upsets me. I thought long and hard about it. I mean, I can play the game that many radio hosts do, and fire up the base with hate. Like ACME’s, just add water and you’ve got a fine hate stew. (Yeah, sure, every single Republican I have ever met is a card-carrying racist.) My "honey bunny," Rush Limbaugh has made a fortune this way, after all…. and Glenn Beck is a Michelangelo at building the “fear Obama” sculpture.

Problem is: one, it isn’t true, and there are plenty of racist Dems.

And, two: Even if there was a racist draw to the faux populist made-for-cable-TV “tea parties,” it doesn’t get any of us where we want to go. It just makes things worse.

When President Obama met with Chavez, he didn’t point a righteous finger at him and challenge him to a duel, he tried a new tact: respect, hoping to eventually win over the people of Venezuela.

And, over the weekend, I had my own sign, if you will, that we’re on the right track.

I received an e-mail from a self-described white male, conservative, Rushbo-listening, evangelical working in the nuclear weapons arena (not exactly what we call my T1 in radio) named Rick in Albuquerque. I’m sharing it with you below because this is what I was hoping for when I started this show. Now, I'm not saying we have converted Rick into a post-nuclear metrosexual or anything, but he is listening, and we can start to have a dialogue again on the multiple crises on our doorstep. Hearts and minds, my friends. That’s where change starts.

I also received far more e-mails saying amen, sister – keep not hating! We’re so, like, over that. Now, you know I love a good debate, and I can get pretty worked up (especially when it comes to autos), but I can only be what I am – a very progressive and often idealistic person. But I do have friends across the spectrum, Democrats and Republicans, white and black, gay and straight. It's confusing at times, but the one thing I do know is that labels suck and should be restricted for use on mattresses only.

From: Chelsea Morning
Subject: Kudos


I am probably everything that most of your listeners hate. Dyed-in-the-wool Republican. Social conservative. Evangelical Christian. White male. Work in the nuclear weapons arena.

For years I listened to Rush, Sean, et al but started hunting for
something different when I grew tired of their continual bashing of the Left and their cutting off callers who had a different point of view. That's when I found Air America. It was interesting to hear the other side but also disappointing because Randy, Thom, and the others were doing the same things as their right-wing counterparts. I really wanted to understand what the world looked like through progressive eyes and all I was hearing was a continual stream of bile being spewed out against people who held toconservative ideals.

Today,however, was wonderfully different. At one point on your show you relayed a message from a listener promising to never listen to you again because you had something decent to say about Republicans. I thought your response about treating people well was great.

That comment and all of the calls leading up to it crystalized for me what I had been understanding at a subconscious level but could never put words on until this afternoon. I don't believe that nuclear weapons, the economic crisis, global warming, or any of the
other things normally discussed on these shows are the greatest threat to our nation. The real threat is ourcollective arrogance and selfishness.

It dawned on me today that the host of every show on TV and radio focused on politics comes from the perspective of "I am right on everything that I say and the opposition is completely wrong." Maybe it is all just theater, in a sense -- a way to bump ratings -- but I think that it is more than that. Some of the folks who called into your show today had hearts full of hate. One guy would have been comical if the irony hadn't been so tragic. He complained about the tea parties being a cover for hateful white racists even as every syllable he spoke was overflowing with his own poisonous hatred for the "haters" he was condemning. And it's not just on the liberal side you see this. Much of what happens in conservative talk radio is callers genuflecting to right-wing dogma and getting the same kinds of verbal strokes of approval from the right wing hosts that I hear being handed out by left wing hosts to their callers.

It struck me today that the whole lot of it is overflowing with arrogance and selfishness. If I believe that I am absolutely correct in every opinion that I hold, if I believe that I have nothing to learn from someone with differing opinions, if I don't take time to try to understand what "the others" believe and why, then I am an arrogant fool. If I insist that our national leaders work only those issues that are important to me, that they advance only my causes and in my way, then I am selfish.

Years ago I heard Tip O'Neill, commenting on how American politics used to be, say that they would fight like cats and dogs during the day in Congress and then go out after work and all have beers together. In the bar, it didn't matter who was Democrat or Republican. They generally respected one another.

My fear is that our nation is a house deeply divided and I wonder how much longer we can stand if, at the end of the day, we can't be civil to one another when the debating is done. We should each be able to hold our own positions passionately but should never allow these differences to foment hatred. Calling each other "idiot" or "mentally deficient" simply because we don't see things the same must come to an end if we want our nation to regain its strength. More than anything we need to grow big hearts and listening ears. We need to embrace humility ("I am sure that I don't see things the way you do; help me understand what you believe and why") and respect ("I will see you as a fellow American -- as my brother -- and not as my enemy").

Today, I saw a glimmer of that in your comments. Keep it up. Encourage dialog, not division, and I'll keep listening. I don't believe the Right is right on everything (there is much that has happened over the last few years that really disappoint me). I don't believe the Left has a monopoly on truth either. Maybe if we seek to understand more that we seek to be understood, we will all be better off.

Rick C.Albuquerque, NM

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Save 300,000 Jobs--Boycott Chase (cross-post from DailyKos)

by emptywheel
Wed Apr 08, 2009 at 10:51:46 AM EDT

Michigan and Chrysler have about 2 weeks to get JP Morgan Chase to renegotiate Chrysler's debt--or 300,000 people will lose their jobs. To pressure JP Morgan to negotiate, FDL and Progress Michigan are calling on people to boycott Chase.

JP Morgan Chase wants to push Chrysler into bankruptcy so it can jump the line ahead of retirees and US taxpayers to get paid back.

If JP Morgan Chase does that, 300,000 people will lose their jobs.

That's sorry thanks we get from a company that has gotten $25 billion in TARP funds from American taxpayers--plus billions more in other benefits from the Wall Street bailout.

My husband and I decided the only way to pressure JP Morgan Chase to negotiate in good faith with Chrysler was to close our Chase accounts. We want our money to go to a bank that is investing in rebuilding Michigan--not bankrupting it.

Now, FireDogLake and Progress Michigan are calling on others to join our Chase boycott.

Sign the petition

Join the FaceBook group

Find your Michigan Chase branch and close your account

Update: Progressive radio host Nancy Skinner--who drives a Chrysler and lives in Michigan--is going to join the boycott and close her two Chase accounts. She will have Jane Hamsher on her show today, at 3PM ET, to talk about this action.

Tune in to hear Jane and Nancy at 3PM ET