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Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary (4290)

by Bill Berkowitz

There's a link between the epidemic of gun-related murders in the U.S. and the campaign for same-sex marriage, says Morality in Media's Robert Peters.

Three days before the 1994 mid-term elections, Newt Gingrich decided the time was right to link the case of Susan Smith -- the South Carolina woman who had been accused of murdering her two sons -- to the upcoming election. As reported by journalist Norman Solomon, then Congressman Gingrich, responding to an Associated Press reporter who asked him to assess the campaign, stated: "Slightly more moving our way. I think that the mother killing the two children in South Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick the society is getting and how much we need to change things." Gingrich concluded, "The only way you get change is to vote Republican. That's the message for the last three days."

According to Solomon, "Two days later, less than 24 hours before the polls opened, Gingrich defended his comments on the Smith case as no different than what he'd been saying for years -- that violence and related ills arise from a Democratic-controlled political system: 'We need very deep change if we're going to turn this country around.'"

Nearly 15 years later, Robert Peters, the head of an outfit called Morality in Media, has put his own personal stamp on Gingrich's theme, only instead of blaming the Democrats for society's woes, he's blaming the gays. In a Morality in Media press release dated April 9, Peters commented on two articles that appeared of the front page of The New York Times five days earlier: One was on the Iowa Supreme Court's decision legalizing same-sex marriage, and the other was about the gunman who had killed 13 people in Binghamton, New York.

by Bill Berkowitz

Last spring, when the mainstream media's feasted on Pastor John Hagee's anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic sermons, Senator McCain was forced to repudiate the Pastor's endorsement. Why then did the mainstream media give Sarah Palin a pass regarding her -- some would say -- astonishing religious beliefs and affiliations?  

A BuzzQuiz: Which do you know more about?

a) Levi Johnston's relationship with Sarah Palin's daughter.  

b) Sarah Palin's religious beliefs and affiliations.

If your answer is a), read on; you've got a few things to learn about. If you answered b), read on anyway.

During the presidential campaign, the religious convictions of the candidates frequently dominated the headlines. However, unlike stories about whether Barack Obama was secretly a Muslim masquerading as a Christian, or whether John McCain was sufficiently loyal to the Christian right's social agenda, and unlike the reputation-tarnishing videos of sermons delivered by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Pastor John Hagee, the religious beliefs of Sarah Palin remained mostly a mystery. While her beliefs drew some attention from the mainstream media, her religious convictions and connections never received Rev. Wright-or-Pastor Hagee-like coberage.

by Michael Winship

A number of years ago, when I was writing a public television series for the Smithsonian Institution, I watched a woman in one of the museum's conservation labs, restoring what appeared to be an old top hat.

What's its story, I asked her? Oh, she replied nonchalantly, this is the hat Lincoln wore to Ford's Theater the night he was assassinated.


Actor Sam Waterston, aka District Attorney Jack McCoy on "Law & Order," had an even more visceral experience when he was preparing to play Abraham Lincoln and went to the Library of Congress to research the part.

"This guy took me down and down and down into the bowels of the library, down a long hall... all the way to what felt like the back of the building," Waterston told my colleague Bill Moyers on a special edition of Bill Moyers Journal. There he met a curator who said, "Hold out your hands. These are the contents of Lincoln's pockets on the night he was shot."


Two pairs of glasses, a watch fob, a pocketknife, a handkerchief, monogrammed, "A. Lincoln," by his wife, Mary Todd. A wallet, inside of which were newspaper clippings and a Confederate five-dollar bill -- a souvenir, perhaps, of the visit Lincoln had made to the conquered city of Richmond, Virginia, just a few days earlier.

by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

A cartoon in the Sunday comics shows that mustachioed fellow with the monocle and top hat from the Monopoly game  -- "Rich Uncle Pennybags," he used to be called -- standing along the roadside, destitute, holding a sign: "Will blame poor people for food."

Time to move the blame to where it really belongs. That means no more coddling banks with bailout billions marked "secret." No more allowing their executives lavish bonuses and new corporate jets as if they've won the megalottery and not sent the economy down the tubes. And no more apostles of Wall Street calling the shots.

Which brings us to Larry Summers. Over the weekend, the White House released financial disclosure reports revealing that Summers, director of the National Economic Council, received $5.2 million last year working for a $30 billion hedge fund. He made another $2.7 million in lecture fees, including cash from recent beneficiaries of taxpayer generosity such as Citigroup, JP Morgan, and Goldman Sachs. The now defunct financial services giant Lehman Brothers handsomely purchased his pearls of wisdom, too.

Reading stories about Summers and Wall Street, you realize the man was intoxicated by the exotic witches brew of derivatives and other financial legerdemain that got us into such a fine mess in the first place. Yet here he is, serving as gatekeeper of the information and analysis going to President Obama on the current collapse.

We have to wonder, when the President asks, "Larry, who did this to us?" is Summers going to name names of old friends and benefactors? Knowing he most likely will be looking for his old desk back once he leaves the White House, is he going to be tough on the very system of lucrative largesse that he helped create in his earlier incarnation as a de-regulating Treasury Secretary? ("Larry?" "Yes, Mr. President?" "Who the hell recommended repealing the Glass-Steagall Act back in the 90s and opened the floodgates to all this greed?" "Uh, excuse me, Mr. President, I think Bob Rubin's calling me.")

by Bill Berkowitz

Whether courting the Religious Right, converting to Catholicism, clamoring to 'drill here now,' threatening North Korea, or lighting up the Fox News Channel with a steady stream of blather, the more things change for the former House Speaker, the more they remain the same.

In your heart of hearts, you know that only you can save the rapidly declining fortunes of the Republican Party; not John McCain, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Joe the Plumber, or even Rush Limbaugh. To save the Party, you will do and say whatever it takes. If you need to go on bended-knee to Dr. James Dobson, and publicly acknowledge on his radio program that you have not always walked the straight and narrow, you'll do that. If you have to align yourself with the likes of the American Family Association's Donald Wildmon, you'll do that. If you need to call out gays, you'll do that.

The Internet is chock full of stories about your comings and goings. Here's a piece about you jumping on the Tax Day Tea Party bandwagon. There's a host of stories about your conversion to Catholicism.

You're a 24/7 op-ed machine, a news cycle unto yourself as you breathlessly pass out opinions on Sunday morning network news shows or as a regular contributor to the Fox News Channel.

No one would accuse you of being a clothes hound or being coifed stylishly. You aren't cut; no poster child for physical fitness. You tend to be on the rather schlubby side of the species. You've been a sore winner and a sore loser.

And, to cap it off, the public has never really liked you.


By Michael Collins

I have a question.   It emerged after reading the two paragraphs below while waiting for French Toast "deluxe" in a diner.  There was nothing else to do but read the Washington Post  (Apr. 4, 2009):

"The Obama administration is engineering its new bailout initiatives in a way that it believes will allow firms benefiting from the programs to avoid restrictions imposed by Congress, including limits on lavish executive pay, according to government officials.

"Administration officials have concluded that this approach is vital for persuading firms to participate in programs funded by the $700 billion financial rescue package."

by Michael Winship

"A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in." That was Frederick the Great of Prussia's take on the pain of being royalty.

Just ask Queen Elizabeth II and Michelle Obama. When they briefly touched one another at Buckingham Palace Thursday, a moment of contact that was more gentle pat than hug, you would have thought the First Lady had challenged Her Royal Highness to pistols at 20 paces. What a breach of protocol!

What a world. Luckily, Buckingham Palace jumped into the breach to announce, "It was a mutual and spontaneous display of affection and appreciation," and besides, the Royal Press Office said, it was at an informal reception -- thus convincing the media on both sides of the Atlantic to unclutch their smelling salts.

But if you needed further proof that the Earth is off its axis, spinning toward the sun, there came the news that another crowned head, Miss Universe, had paid a visit to Guantanamo Bay. Yes, courtesy of the USO, Venezuela's Dyanna Mendoza hit the beach for her personal remake of "Baywatch," visiting the no doubt startled troops there and touring the Gitmo facilities.

Because there apparently is a higher power with a sardonic sense of humor -- thank you! -- Ms. Mendoza kept an Internet diary in which she told the world about boat rides and a trip to a beach covered with bits of colored glass.

by Charlotte Dennett

Those of you following the prosecution trail will be interested to know that Patrick Leahy's Truth Commission is a no-go. I was in a meeting with Leahy and four other Vermonters on Monday when he broke the news to us. We had asked for the meeting to learn why he supported a Truth Commission over the appointment of a special prosecutor. Halfway through the allotted 30-minute meeting (with him taking up much of the time explaining why he was not generally opposed to prosecution, since he had been a DA for 8 years and had the highest conviction rate in Vermont), he told us his Truth Commission had failed to get the broad support it needed in Congress, and since he couldn't get one Republican to come behind the plan, "it's not going to happen."

It was a sobering exchange. The meeting had begun with our expressing serious concerns about ongoing dangers to our democracy, with the trend going to executive power while damaging our constitution. "We are a nation of laws," said Dan DeWalt, who had helped organize 36 Vermont towns to vote for impeachment of Bush on town meeting day. "If we have a system of justice, why not let it take its course? It seems to many Americans that the rich and powerful don't have the same system of justice, and they're getting away with torture, murder, fraud, and Ponzi schemes."

By the end of the meeting, we were beginning to wonder whether anything at all was going to done -- by Congress, by Attorney General Holder, by President Obama -- to hold the Bush team accountable for its crimes.


by J. Pratt Vulpes
-- Satire

Imagine a world where children are raised to become agents of change throughout their work and lives, not docile employees, consumers, and followers.  One in which corporate personhood has been displaced, and human needs and the environment take precedence over the unlimited quest to maximize profits.  A world where every citizen feels confident speaking out and organizing to advance a shared vision of justice.
Imagine that, in this world, health care for all prevails, with no place for insurance company intermediaries or pharmaceutical ad campaigns.  Elections are publicly funded and verifiable, and politicians are responsive to the people, not to corporate lobbyists and wealthy donors.  Openness is prized, and intellectual property restrictions, proprietary software, and closed ways of doing business have fallen from favor.

Imagine people no longer stirred by religious leaders to restrict the role of women, reject science, and hate or invade their neighbors.  People boldly charting their own courses in life according to their values and sense of authenticity, rather than following standard routes laid down by others.  People living without fear of scarcity or distrust of difference, confident that together their diverse abilities are ample to meet all their needs.

For ten decades, the industry I now have the privilege of representing has worked tenaciously to protect you from this nightmare scenario.  The men and women of my profession are proud to have developed and deployed strategies rooted in FUD — Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt — that have made the world I have just described nearly inconceivable, and its proposed "innovations" widely reviled.

by Jeff Fleischer

Perhaps no program better symbolizes the Ronald Reagan/ George W. Bush wing of the Republican Party than the national missile defense (NMD) system.

First proposed by Reagan in 1983 and pushed through by Bush nearly two decades later, the system is a perfect microcosm of its two fathers' administrations. A multi-billion-dollar pork project funded with no sense of irony by self-proclaimed "small-government" conservatives? Check. A military overreaction that caused more problems than it set out to solve? Check. A program whose failures only became excuses to stubbornly keep going rather than come up with a better plan? An unneeded treaty violation whose very creation became a main argument for its existence? An insult to America's allies that weakened diplomatic credibility? You get the idea.

Say what you will about the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere," but at least it would have actually connected two Alaskan towns. That's a level of success NMD would be hard pressed to match.

By leaving this boondoggle behind, however, Bush presented President Obama with an opportunity. Getting rid of the shield is good for America, if only for the savings such a move would generate for our national coffers and international reputation. If he can use the phasing out of this bloated program as leverage to gain meaningful concessions from Russia -- which has always (and correctly) viewed the system's deployment through the hole Bush tore in the 1972 ABM Treaty -- that's even better. And he can use the system to demonstrate the hypocrisy of some of his critics at home.

It's a no-risk approach that Obama is already exploring.

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