Thursday, August 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Five for fighting -- the belated 2009 edition

Five for fighting -- the belated 2009 edition

I believe trains are still considered on time if they're less than 5 minutes late, so by that standard it's not too late for my annual review of the most impactful posts of 2009. It would have been hard to top 2008 in that department and frankly Attytood didn't, but then we didn't have would-be leaders of the free world traipsing through the building and through our city like the year before. Indeed, some of my favorite posts from the year were from the non-politics desk of Attytood. It was a year for reflection on things like my city and my sometimes lost generation (as the first Generation Jones president took the oath of office) -- and at times that was reflected  here on the cyberpages of  Attytood.

So without further ado (or Freddy Adu, for that matter), here are five for fighting from 2009:

5. "Why Reagan Still Matters," Jan. 28, 2009:

OK – but you may ask whether the Reagan myth matters as much now that George W. Bush is back at the ranch and President Obama in the White House. I would argue that it does. Increasingly, the GOP minority in Washington, including 41 senators with just enough votes to derail the administration’s proposals, is going to invoke the Reagan myth to continue to justify a tax system that harms the middle class and policies that ignore the scientific consensus on climate change. Look at the first major policy debate of the Obama presidency, over the proposed $825 billion economic stimulus. Democrats are under enormous political pressure to weight the plan toward tax cuts, and away from spending programs, which Republicans quickly branded as much pork – despite evidence that jobs programs stimulate the economy at twice the rate of tax reductions. "I remain concerned about wasteful spending that might be attached to the tax relief," House GOP leader John Boehner said – and right-wing talk radio was a lot less restrained. Ironically, the spending sought by the Democrats seek to undo the crumbling of America’s infrastructure and the failure to create “green-collar” jobs that dates back to the Reagan era.

"Tear Down This Myth" was my first political book, and as the calendar flipped into 2009 and Barack Obama became the new president, I worried whether a book on the Gipper's mythological hold over conservatives in thr 21st Century would be that relevant. Silly me. The Reagan myth is bigger than even as the new decade begins, fueling obstructionist policies that -- thanks to the power of the filibuster -- may prevent progress on global warming and a host of other issues.

4. "Inquirer defends the indefensible: A monthly column by torture architect John Yoo," May 11, 2009:

This is exactly the kind of "on one hand, on the other hand" cowardly practice that has become a cancer destroying the moral DNA of America's newsrooms. "On one hand, torture is not only immoral but a violation of international and even U.S. law, but on the other hand, check out our 'provocative' new columnist, John Yoo, who can't travel to Europe because he might be arrested for war crimes!" This is wrong -- horribly so. For more than five years, American newsrooms have helped to normalize the inhumane practice of torture, giving into the government's Orwellian terms like "enhanced interrogation" and failing to call for accountability of those responsible for these crimes, including -- but not stopping at -- John Yoo. For a much-honored newspaper like the Inquirer to pay someone like Yoo to write a regular column is surely the exclamation point on a dark period in which most of my profession flunked its greatest moral test.

My blog posts about Yoo were picked up by the New York Times and elsewhere and led to protests outside 400 N. Broad, but the last we checked Yoo was still writing for the Inquirer and still using the media as a platform to keep him from where he belongs, which is behind bars, as an enabler of war crimes.

3. "What battered newsrooms can learn from Stewart's CNBC takedown," March 5, 2009:

The Stewart piece also got the kind of eyeballs that most newsrooms would kill for in this digital age -- planted atop many, many major political, media and business Web sites -- and the kind of water-cooler chatter that journalists would crave in any age. In a time when newspapers are flat-out dying if not dealing with bankruptcy or massive job losses, while other types of news orgs aren't faring much better, the journalistic success of a comedy show rant shouldn't be viewed as a stick in the eye -- but a teachable moment. Why be a curmudgeon about kids today getting all their news from a comedy show, when it's not really that hard to join Stewart in his own idol-smashing game.

This was most probably the most widely read post of the year -- and it speaks to a recurring theme and a recurring source of frustration, which is the ongoing difficulties of traditional media in becoming more competitive or innovative in the Internet age (and the year that the parent company of the Daily News filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, no less). As we say around these parts...no blood in ants!

2. "The Love You Save: Michael Jackson and the rear-guard Baby Boomers," June 26, 2009:

And then the 1980s came, the fulfillment of that promise -- for him, for us. When Michael released "Thriller," it seemed to speak yet again to my sub-generation, 20-somethings still grasping for a common identity in the bitter aftertaste of the Pepsi generation, sandwiched in between the grumpy elders and cleancut teens who were both trying to herd us into the Age of Reagan. Michael Jackson truly was, for that brief moment, our "man in the mirror" for a confusing new decade: Someone whose weird clothes spoke of rebellion yet made no coherent statement, not a radical but a careerist and a perfectionist who was moonwalking his way to the bank, totally apolitical and racially ambiguous, an artist who understood "new media" (remember when that meant MTV?) and thus was going to reign forever as the King of Pop.

Like I said up top, 2009 was a year for reflecting a lot of where we've been, and where we were going. In addition to Jackson, it seemed like we lost a lot of notable people during these 12 months. One of my heroes who died and who deserves a special mention: Walter Cronkite.

1. "The day Philly stopped being a joke," Oct. 31, 2009.

This year, the Yankees moved into the House that Madoff Built, a $1.5 billion sterile replica of the legendary old ballpark across the street, lined with luxury boxes for the inside traders and associated con artists who can afford them, with huge blocks of overpriced seats sitting empty behind home plate -- even during Games 1 and 2 of the World Series. In Philadelphia, raucous Citizens Bank Park is our civic temple, a place where the defining image of the 2009 season didn't involve boos or batteries, but a dad hugging his two-year-old daughter after she threw away a foul ball. No wonder New York is so jealous of a city that is so confident and -- dare we say it -- so happy, that is coming into its own in opening moments of a new millennium. Confident enough as a city that even losing this World Series -- which to paraphrase Clint Eastwood, is not going to happen -- wouldn't change that.

Well, um, OK, actually the Phillies did lose, but I was right -- it didn't change the era of good feeling about the Phillies, or the upbeat way that Philadelphians felt about their city, even in the face of continued mediocre leadership at City Hall. There's also quite a bit to worry about as we start a new decade -- an economy that created zero jobs in 10 years, and a national political system that seems broken beyond repair. But the reality is that humans are survivors. There is no reason not to demand the very best from our leaders and much more importantly, from ourselves in 2010, and no reason not to hope this will be the year we finally get it.

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