It’s Cool to be liberal…The left is compassion’s real home (Philadelphia Inquirer, May 7, 2002).
I am proud to be a liberal.
My heroes are Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Robert Kennedy. When I see Charlton Heston in a Planet of the Apes rerun, I find myself rooting for the apes.
Here’s why I am a liberal: Liberalism means compassion. The real kind: selflessness and caring about others, especially those at the bottom rung of the economic ladder. Liberals fight for women, minorities, the disabled, and those who traditionally haven’t had a voice in governing the country. Those are the real American values, if you ask me.
I know: Through the facade of “compassionate conservatism,” President Bush is strategically trespassing in this yard. True to his roots, though, he speaks softly but carries a small stick when it comes to helping impoverished people in inner cities.
The Christian Coalition and right-wing fundamentalists claim that God is on their side. Their Bible opposes abortion rights and and gays in the military. But another reading sees strong opposition to tax cuts for the rich, as well as strong support for economic policies that show compassion for the poor and oppressed (the Book of Amos), and preserve the environment.
Lately, it’s been a tough time for liberals. To stay true to our principles, we should be criticizing President Bush on a number of fronts. That’s hard to do when Bush is enjoying record popularity as a wartime president.
But look at all the worrisome things afoot right now: the aforementioned lack of action and compassion; the diminishment in our personal freedoms since Sept. 11; a range of policies, from the environment to social spending, that are simply wrong.
But dissent from President Bush isn’t very popular these days. A few days after Sept. 11, I went to a ceremony at City Hall courtyard in Philadelphia. About 50 feet away from me, there was a huge commotion when a man silently held up a sign that said: BUSH STILL STOLE THE ELECTION. People went up to the man and exchanged heated words with him. Eventually, police officers came and convinced the protester to walk away with his tail between his legs.
(It’s ironic that some consider liberals unpatriotic because they criticize President Bush–when Republicans made political hay for eight years criticizing President Clinton).
Plus, a quarter century of demagoguery has mad liberalism a dirty word. When is the last time you heard a public official or candidate for office admit that he or she was a liberal? L has become the new scarlet letter. If a politician is classified as a tax-and-spend liberal, he or she might as well be wearing an “I luv Osama” T-shirt.
It seems fashionable now to blame everything on former President Clinton: “His economic policies caused the recession! His lax attitude toward terrorism led to Sept. 11.
Let’s not forget that Republicans were the party of Teapot Dome, McCarthyism, Watergate, Iran-Contra, Enron, and opposition to the civil-rights movement. Democrats represent FDR getting the country on track after the Depression and winning World War II, the idealism of Kennedy and LBJ, and the Clinton boom. (The Reagan prosperity of the 1980s was misleading because it didn’t trickle down to enough people and resulted in enormous deficits.)
Yet I see some friends and acquaintances starting to become more conservative–Bush Democrats, so to speak. It’s starting to get like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
I suppose I should give several benefits of several doubts here. As they age and become more invested in the status quo, many people become more conservative. And after Sept. 11 th, it’s been tough to view things from a political perspective. After all, we’re Americans first.
So what can liberals like me do during times like these? While we should be patriotic and support the war effort, we also should ensure that President Bush and the congressional Republicans don’t construe his wartime popularity as a mandate to implement a far-right-wing radical agenda.
I’m looking for this cycle to pass, the American memory to clear, and real American values to become popular again. Until then, to my “Bush Democrat” friends, I say: “Don’t go to the Dark Side. Stay with us in the blue states.”
Don’t Touch That Dial (Finally Liberal Radio) (Philadelphia Inquirer, October 3, 2003 and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 2, 2004)
Finally, the liberal media will become a reality.
Last November, Mark Walsh, an investors’ technology adviser to the Democratic National Committee, purchased the proposed liberal radio network formed by venture capitalists Sheldon and Anita Drobny. Last month, it was announced that comedian, author, and social commentator Al Franken will be on the new network going head-to-head against Rush Limbaugh in the afternoon. The new network expects to start broadcasting in March or April in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston. Walsh recently announced that the new network reached its first major distribution agreement with the Chicago AM station WNTD.
It’s about time that liberals get to be heard.
Last year, the National Association of Broadcasters held its annual radio convention in Philadelphia. Rush Limbaugh, the big, fat, ultraconservative idiot delivered the convention’s keynote address. Unfortunately, his appearance was an accurate reflection of the sad reality that conservatives dominate talk radio.
For years, the conservatives have asserted that the media is controlled by the liberal elite. They cite studies that indicate that the majority of reporters indicate that they consider themselves to be liberal. However, the conservatives ignore the fact that media outlets are controlled by major corporations, which tend to be conservative and Republican. Furthermore, even assuming that most reporters are liberal, most of the people who spin the news in this country–columnists, pundits, and opinion makers–are conservative. For every liberal commentator like Molly Ivins, there are at least four conservative columnists such as Ann Coulter, Linda Chavez, Jonah Goldberg, and Cal Thomas. When is the last time you heard Dan Rather, Tim Russert, or Peter Jennings (frequent targets of conservatives) launch into a partisan angry diatribe against the Bush administration?
In the past, liberal radio hosts have failed. The problem is that they weren’t angry or entertaining enough The new liberal radio network can’t survive if it serves up tofu and snow peas–it needs red meat to expose the failures and arrogance of Incurious George and his failed administration. There’s plenty of untapped anger on the left that needs to vent. Liberal callers are not going to get a fair hearing on the Rush Limbaugh show regarding the unconscionable tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and the incompetence of the Bush administration in planning for the post-war situation in Iraq. There are also plenty of potential left wing hosts who have the gumption to take on the radical right in an aggressive, entertaining, and sarcastic manner such as Michael Moore, Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo, Paul Begala, and James Carville.
During the months leading up to the United States invasion of Iraq, most major media outlets served as linguini-spined cheerleaders for the Bush administration. The media did not cover the burgeoning war protest movement until it was too late. It did not raise questions as to what turned out to be darn bad intelligence regarding the existence of weapons of mass destruction and of Al-Qaeda ties to Saddam Hussein. Liberals need a place to vent about the tyranny of King George II without being called dopes, morons, traitors, feminazis, evildoers, and communists. We need a place where the talk show host feels our pain.
Conservative talk radio is simply unfair and unbalanced. It spent eight years lampooning and ridiculing President Clinton through vicious personal attacks. One of the reasons that Republicans gained a majority in the House and Senate and that George Bush defeated (sort of) Al Gore in the 2000 election was the fact that right wing Republicans were getting their message out through talk radio and were able to brainwash enough people to follow them. Hopefully, with the help of a liberal talk radio network, we can send The Cowboy to ride off in the sunset back to his Crawford, Texas ranch.
Here in Philadelphia, there is only one major talk radio station, the big talker, WPHT 1210 AM. Unfortunately, all the hosts are conservative Republicans (one host, Glenn Beck, calls himself Libertarian, but he tends to lean conservative most of the time). The lineup of hosts–Dom Giordano, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh, sounds like a National Rifle Association convention. While these hosts are talented and good at what they do, they only provide one viewpoint– a right-wing, conservative, Republican one. Sometimes, it seems like Tass. You would think and hope that a major city like Philadelphia, which primarily votes Democratic, could have at least a couple of liberal radio talk show hosts.
After years of being abused and ignored, it’s time that liberal Democrats have a forum to fight back. A liberal radio network can help tap into the anger against President Bush and help to ensure that he won’t be around for four more years to make things even worse.
—————- ————- ——–
Some Muggles Aren’t Impressed (Harry Potter and Censorship) (Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 27, 2003). Revised versions of this article appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun)
Throughout the country, parents, school districts, religious groups, and others are trying to censor the best-selling Harry Potter series of children’s books by J.K. Rowling due to the books’ alleged occult/Satanic theme, witchcraft, wizardry, encouragement of dishonesty, religious viewpoint, anti-family approach, and violence. According to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, the Harry Potter series has topped the list of books most challenged for two years in a row. The Harry Potter books received 52 challenges in 2000, which constitute a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school about a book’s content or appropriateness. Several elementary schools have banned the books and there are efforts to ban the books from public school classrooms in 26 states. A religious group near Pittsburgh staged a book and record burning that included the Potter series due to its references to sorcery.
In 1999, a school superintendent in Zeeland, Michigan banned classroom readings of Harry Potter, required parental permission for older students to check out the books from school libraries, and forbid librarians from ordering future books in the series. Despite complaints about the ban, the school board supported the superintendent’s decision. In March 2000, a teacher and a reading tutor organized students, parents, teachers, and other community residents who opposed the ban to form “Muggles for Harry Potter.” (In the Potter series, muggles are people without magical powers). Within nine months, 18,000 people nationwide joined the campaign. Through the efforts of the protesters, the Michigan school district lifted all restrictions on the books, except for classroom readings for kindergarten through fifth-graders.
In being challenged so frequently, the Potter series joins a long list of challenged books such as Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” and John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”
In Board of Educ. V. Pico, the United States Supreme Court held in a 1982 decision that local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books and seek by their removal to prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion. The Pico plurality opinion indicated that removal of books is permissible where the book contained pervasive vulgarity or if the book was educationally unsuitable. The court stated that the First Amendment includes the right to receive ideas.
While the plurality decision in Pico was not binding precedent, it has been relied upon by many subsequent court decisions. In a 1995 Kansas federal district court decision, Case v. Unified School District, the court held that school district officials violated the First Amendment rights of students and a teacher when it removed a book from the district’s libraries entitled “Annie on My Mind,” which was a novel depicting a fictional homosexual romantic relationship between two teenage girls. The court emphasized that defendants impermissibly removed the book because they disagreed with the ideas expressed in the book and that this factor was the substantial motivation in their removal decision.
Many great books have flaws and could be objected to on many counts such as violence (Oedipus Rex gauging his eyes out, Piggy being stoned to death in Lord of the Flies); racism and ethnic slurs (the use of racial epithets in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or the Anti-Semitism involved with Shylock in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice).But how far do you take it? Should you prevent kids from reading the Bible because it contains many disturbing stories?
The greatest magic of the Potter series doesn’t occur at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry or at the World Quidditch Cup. It occurs when millions of kids around the world put down a video game or Pokemon card and pick up and be spellbound by a 734-page book.
—- —- —–
As Eagles quarterback temp Doug Pederson and Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin have learned recently, Philadelphia isn’t always the place that loves you back. Philadelphia sports fans have a national reputation for being negative, a reputation that’s entirely deserved. While Pittsburgh was once known as the “City of Winners,” Philadelphia might as well be the “City of Whiners.”
Why are we so negative? Maybe it’s because we’ve been deprived for so long. It’s been sixteen years since the 76ers won the NBA title and provided the city’s last championship. Of the cities with at least four major teams, Philadelphia has gone the longest without a title.
Fans in other regions of the country have their own distinct characteristics and trademark quirks. Chicago Cub fans throw baseballs back onto the field after opponents hit a home run. Duke University basketball fans bob up and down in unison to rattle the other team. Cleveland Browns fans bark and wave dog bones in the end zone’s “dawg pound.” Los Angeles Dodger fans leave after the sixth inning to beat the traffic.
So what are Philadelphia fans best known for? Booing. White collar and blue collar Philadelphians alike feel that booing is a birthright…as much a part of Philadelphia as cheesesteaks, hoagies, and the Liberty Bell. It is a rite of passage when a Philadelphia dad takes his son to an Eagles game and they share the common bond of heckling an Eagles quarterback when he overthrows a receiver. Aside from a boycott, booing is the only avenue that the fans have to express their displeasure at how their team is being run and how the players are performing. A group of Eagles’ fans recently upheld this tradition when they went to the NFL Draft and proceeded to boo the Eagles’ management for taking quarterback Donovan McNabb instead of running back Ricky Williams or failing to trade their pick to the New Orleans Saints for a riverboatload of draft pick
I remember my first exposure to cynical Philadelphia fans. In the early 1970s, my father took me to a Phillies double header at Veterans Stadium. Between games, there was some promotion featuring the Easter Bunny in a hot air balloon. The poor rabbit couldn’t get his balloon off the ground and a crowd of over 60,000 booed lustily for over ten minutes. Luckily for the bunny, it was springtime and the fans weren’t able to pelt him with snowballs like fans did to Santa Claus during halftime of an Eagles home game in the late 1960s.
Of course, the jeering and ill will has not been reserved to the holiday mascots who have had the misfortune to find themselves on the terrifying playing fields of the City of Brotherly Love. Athletes, as it turns out, usually make better targets. It was one thing to boo Von Hayes, whom many scouts had touted as the next Ted Williams. He played more like Vanessa Williams, so the derision was understandable. But it was another thing entirely to boo Mike Schmidt, the greatest Phillie of all time. Schmidt hit 548 career home runs and is considered to be the greatest third baseman in baseball history. The hometown fans at times were merciless, which prompted Schmidt on one occasion to don a wig and sunglasses in a humorous attempt to diffuse tension during fielding practice.
We even boo our fellow fans. At pro and college basketball games, lucky fans are often invited to shoot a halfcourt shot or a series of three pointers to win prizes. Naturally, the unlucky fan usually doesn’t hit the backboard, making him or her yet another unfortunate victim of Philly wrath.
Sometimes, though, people lose sight that opposing players are human beings and not evil cartoon characters or Darth Vader action figures. Shame on the numbskulls who threw batteries at the St. Louis Cardinals’ J.D. Drew in August and cheered when a stretcher came out for the seriously-injured Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin. There’s a difference between being a dedicated, loyal, and passionate fan justifiably expressing his or her anger with an unproductive player or inept management with a heartfelt boo, and an idiot who loses all perspective, forgets that it’s only a game, and crosses that invisible blue line (Hey, I had to fit hockey somewhere in here) to engage in unsportsmanlike conduct.