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Which Side Are You On? Fiscal Cliff Edition

1:27 pm in Uncategorized by Brian Sonenstein

Firedoglake’s pledge drive to strengthen – not cut – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits has grown to over 70,000 activists. By mobilizing to make phone calls, office visits, run ads, write letters and more, our activists have played an important role in preventing benefit cuts from taking place over the past 4 years.

We’re reviving our pledge drive for the latest showdown, vowing to withhold support from any politician who participates in cutting Social Security, Medicare and/or Medicaid benefits.

It’s time to ask our elected officials: Which side are you on?

Here is my email to our activists:

Pledge to Protect Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid From Benefit Cuts

Dear Firedoglake activist,

Will Democrats in the House and Senate stand firm in opposition to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefit cuts, or cave to the President's "Grand Bargain" strategy of trading cuts for tax increases on the wealthy? Raising taxes on the rich is essential to growing our economy, but we cannot throw the poor, elderly and disabled to the wolves to do so.

Unfortunately, Democratic party leaders like Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin are following the President's lead, proposing a separate commission just to cut Social Security to entice GOP negotiators. Critical resistance is taking root in response as Chicago activists have planned a "Durbinville" shanty town to symbolize the depression-era conditions millions of Americans will face as a result.

Firedoglake is once again organizing our pledge not to support any elected official who votes for cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits.

Add your name to our campaign: "I pledge not to support any elected official who votes to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits."

Social Security is the biggest and most successful anti-poverty program in America, especially among senior citizens. That means any discussion we should be having about Social Security should involve expanding benefits — not cutting them.

While the idea that we face a "deficit crisis" is far-fetched in the first place, shoring up the budget by attacking programs like Medicare and Medicaid that reduce out-of-pocket medical expenses (the largest contributing factor to poverty today) is heartless and horrific. In engineering the 'fiscal cliff' during the debt ceiling negotiations a year ago, the deficit scolds have put forth the threat of another recession as the public's punishment should we refuse to accept their austerity plan.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid continue to provide an essential anti-poverty service to the most vulnerable among us despite repeated attempts to weaken and dismantle them. Cutting their benefits at a time like this makes no sense and we have to stand firm and tell our elected officials they will be held accountable for voting for any program that includes them.

FDL activists have consistently played an important role in opposing cuts to these vital programs. Taking the pledge is the first step in our continued resistance that will include organizing petitions, call campaigns, office visits, advertisements and much more around the Fiscal Cliff negotiations and beyond.

Take the pledge: "I will not support any elected official who votes to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits."

We have to do everything we can to speak out against any Grand Bargain achieved on the backs of Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare recipients. Please join us in opposing benefit cuts today.

In solidarity,

Brian Sonenstein
Campaign Director,

Top 10 MyFDL Diaries of 2010

8:45 am in FDL Community by Brian Sonenstein

In case you missed it, be sure to check out the top 10 FDL blog posts of 2010!

One of the things that makes FDL such an important resource for news coverage and analysis is our thriving diarist community. Our diarists write some of the most compelling and thought-provoking pieces of ‘citizen journalism’ to be found on the internet, especially among the progressive left.

From liveblogging the Prop 8 trial, to offering unique insights into the Julian Assange / WikiLeaks saga, our diarists make important contributions to the work of Firedoglake as a whole.

Check out the top 10 MyFDL diaries from 2010 (based on pageviews):

10. Manic Monday Expected in Washington: How Many Mil Contractors Are There? by Rayne

It’s no secret that the US Government has made use of private contractors in theaters of war for decades. Part of the reason why it’s no secret is because of some of the appalling acts committed by these contractors, such as defrauding the government of billions of taxpayer dollars, raping and killing innocent civilians and engaging in international human trafficking. When word broke that Washington Post writer Dana Priest would be writing an article investigating the size and scope of America’s addiction to contracted security and intelligence service, those respective agencies became very nervous. A day ahead of the article’s release, Rayne posed some important questions to the community, such as “How many of the intelligence contractors aren’t actually contracted by CIA but by DIA?” and “Just how many of these intelligence contractors are not only working in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in places the American public at large doesn’t think of as threats – like Central and South America?”

9. Liveblogging Prop 8 Trial Wednesday Morning 6/16 Closing Arguments (49) by Teddy Partridge

The Prop 8 trial to overturn the ban on same-sex marriages in California was, and continues to be, one of the most contentious civil rights battles of this generation. It’s been a long, arduous fight, but our writers have remained at the forefront, meticulously liveblogging the proceedings while providing great context and analysis at the very same time. Teddy Partridge is one of our most popular diarists and was part of a team (along with Marcy Wheeler and David Dayen) covering Perry vs Schwarzenegger from the San Fransisco courtroom. His work garnered a lot of attention and was referenced by writers across the spectrum. This post in particular is just one of several of Teddy’s livebloggings — but the entire set is well worth the read.

8. Rand Paul And Historical Amnesia by Jim Moss

Simply put, Rand Paul is a gaffe machine. As of last spring, it seemed as though the Senate candidate from Kentucky could not make an appearance without creating some sort of controversy. Most notably, Paul got himself in a lot of trouble by acknowledging his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While many were caught up in the accusations that Paul was a racist, Jim Moss pointed out that the more subversive and dangerous point being made here was instead about an ideology pertaining to the role of government. In this excellent post, Jim goes through a list of important government contributions to the preservation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to disprove the oft-repeated conservative line that government serves to take freedoms, not protect them.

7. Stunning Video of Unemployed Workers: Meet Obama’s Human Shields by Michael Whitney

President Obama caved on his promise to end the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy amidst soaring unemployment and expiring benefits, leaving millions of Americans empty handed and without hope. The AFL-CIO and many other groups worked hard to prevent renewing the Bush tax cuts – an effort that unfortunately failed in the end. As part of the AFL-CIO’s campaign, they put together a tremendous video showcasing several unemployed Americans whose benefits were on the verge of expiration (if they hadn’t expired already). It’s an important look into the struggles facing the nearly 15 million Americans currently out of work.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Top 10 Firedoglake Blog Posts of 2010

7:48 am in Uncategorized by Brian Sonenstein

UPDATE: Be sure to check out the top 10 myFDL diaries of 2010!

2010 gave us a lot to write about here at Firedoglake. From passing student loan reform, to covering the BP oil disaster, to elevating the national conversation around marijuana policy, FDL bloggers and diarists came through with amazing reporting and analysis on the wide variety of issues facing the country.

Here’s a round-up of the top 10 blog posts at Firedoglake in 2010 (based on pageviews) — feel free to share your favorite FDL posts from last year in the comments!

10. “New Harris Poll Finds Nearly One Fourth of Republicans Believe Obama May Be the Antichrist” by Blue Texan

On the day President Obama signed the Affordable Health Care Act of 2010 into law, a Harris Poll attempted to find exactly what portion of Americans held extreme views about the President by asking, among other things, if they believed he was a socialist and if he was born in the United States– loaded questions that were certain to produce some wacky results. And, unsurprisingly, they did: the Harris Poll found that 67% of Republicans believed Obama to be a socialist, 45% believed he was not born in the US and thefore ineligible to hold the office of the President, and 38% believed he was “doing many of the things that Hitler did.”

9. “Reddit Won’t Run Any Display Ads for Marijuana Legalization” by Michael Whitney

Many people across the country believed that 2010 was the year they would finally see the tides begin to turn on our costly, failed drug war. One obstacle we  faced during the course of our Just Say Now campaign to legalize marijuana was the censorship of our online ads. Both Facebook and Reddit refused to run ads depicting marijuana leafs because marijuana is illegal, a stance that made it virtually impossible to advocate for the legalization of marijuana. In August, Condé Nast (which owns Reddit) prohibited the social news site from running Just Say Now ads depicting marijuana, despite the fact that many Reddit users were writing about the various legalization initiatives and even doing small-scale organizing around the issue on their own. In response, Reddit staffers chose to go around Condé Nast and run our ads for free!

8. “The MEANEST TOWN IN AMERICA: Fake Prom for Lesbian Student?” by Lisa Derrick

Last spring, a federal judge in Mississippi ruled that Constance McMillen, a gay high school student attending Itawamba Agricultural High School, had her rights violated after being barred from attending her prom in a tuxedo with her girlfriend. In response, angry, homophobic parents at her school planned a secret, private prom and invited all of Constance’s classmates to attend — except, of course, for Constance and her girlfriend, who unknowingly showed up at the prom’s original location, only to find that no one else was there.

via Morrison World News

7. “Assange Accuser Worked with US-Funded, CIA-Tied Anti-Castro Group” by Kirk James Murphy, MD

Many people held suspicions about the rape charges leveled at Wikileaks founder Julian Assange after his organization leaked thousands of confidential Iraq War documents to the press. Assange’s chief accuser in Sweden was Anna Ardin — an accomplished anti-communist activist with ties to all sorts of questionable characters involved in the US interventions in Latin America, including convicted terrorist and former-CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles. Ardin’s connections to US foreign policy interests brought her accusations into question, especially since evidence suggests she threw a party for Assange after the alleged ‘crime,’ only to report it to authorities once the US political class started clamoring for his head.

6. “Where’s Constance? Photos from a Private Prom” by Lisa Derrick

In this follow-up post from Lisa on the story of Constance McMillen, we are treated to photos and Facebook comments from students and parents involved in the “private, no-gays prom.” It turned out that the parents who organized the secret prom had sought to exclude students with learning disabilities from attending as well. As Constance told the Advocate, “[The students with learning disabilities] had the time of their lives [...] That’s the one good thing that come out of this, [these kids] didn’t have to worry about people making fun of them [at their prom].”

5. “Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady of the Night: DC Cops Can Arrest You for Carrying More Than Two Condoms” by Lisa Derrick

Last summer, Washington, DC cops proclaimed their authority to arrest anyone in the ‘Prostitution Free Zone’ found to be carrying two or more condoms on their person — a truly counterproductive policy in a city facing the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in the country (aound 3-5%). Lisa points out how the Center for Disease Control puts the threshold for severe epidemics at a mere 1%, and wonders how, if at all, this policy helps.

via DailyMe

4. “FCC Commissioners Copps, Clyburn Strongly Support Open Internet” by David Dayen

When Google and Verizon announced a joint policy to kill net neutrality at the height of the open internet debate in August, FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn let loose with harsh criticisms of their proposal at a public hearing in Minnesota. According to Copps, the deal “would eliminate any openness provisions over wireless, which is where all Internet applications are going.” Copps and Clyburn were joined by Minnesota Senator Al Franken, who noted that “we can’t let companies write the rules that we the people are supposed to follow. Because if that happens those rules will be written only to protect corporations.”

3. “Yes on Prop 19 Winning 52%-36%; Majority Supports Legalizing Marijuana” by Jon Walker

Four months before the deciding vote, California’s Proposition 19 to legalize marijuana enjoyed overwhelming support from the public. A PPP poll showed that voters supported the measure by an astounding 52% to 36%. Surprisingly, the poll found African Americans to be the largest bloc of supporters for marijuana legalization – a finding in conflict with earlier polling results that showed African Americans supporting legalization on-or-below average with the rest of the country. Jon also noted the significance of a Rasmussen poll that had, for the first time in the firm’s history, showed a plurality supporting marijuana legalization among American adults: 43% support to 42% oppose – a significant change from results released about one year earlier that found support at only 41%, with 49% opposed. Most importantly, the Rasmussen poll showed that an unprecedented 65% of American adults believed that marijuana would be legalized in the near future.

2. “Fact Sheet: The Truth About the Health Care Bill” by Jane Hamsher

We spent more than a year writing about health care reform and it’s various, complex parts. From the individual mandate that forced Americans to purchase private insurance or face fines from the IRS, to the absence of drug reimportation controls that would make prescription drugs affordable to consumers in the US, there was a LOT of spin and misinformation swirling around the bill. Just a few days before the House vote, we put together a fact sheet called “The Truth About the Health Care Bill” that debunked the various myths surrounding the bill’s provisions. It was wildly popular at the time and continues to serve as an important resource that sheds light on what this bill actually means to the average American.

1. “Yes on Prop 19: Marijuana Legalization Gets its Number in California” by Michael Whitney

It might seem silly that a simple post announcing a ballot proposition number in California would be the most popular of our work in 2010. But when the announcement came that Californians would be deciding to legalize marijuana via Proposition 19 (incidentally, the same number used for the legalization initiative in 1972), the debate over the war on drugs was reignited and became one of the biggest stories of 2010. Michael’s post was the most highly-trafficked post on FDL in 2010!

Is there a particularly memorable post from 2010 that you think should have made the list? Share it with us in the comments!

And thank you all so much for reading and supporting Firedoglake this past year!