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Laura Flanders

Contributing Writer

Best-selling author and broadcaster Laura Flanders hosts the The Laura Flanders Show, where she interviews forward thinking people from the worlds of politics, business, culture and social movements about the key questions of our day. The LF Show airs weekly on KCET/LinkTV, FreeSpeech TV, and in English & Spanish in teleSUR. Flanders is also a contributing writer to The Nation and Yes! Magazine (“Commonomics”) and a regular guest on MSNBC. She is the author of six books, including The New York Times best-seller, BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species (Verso, 2004) and Blue GRIT: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians (Penguin Press, 2007). The Laura Flanders Show first aired on Air America Radio 2004-2008. You can find all her archives and more at

  • April 9, 2009

    Lesson from Vermont: Don’t Cower, Push.


    They did it. On Tuesday the Vermont legislature formally recognized that civil unions are not the same as marriage. Forgive me for saying it, but I think the Vermonters have a thing or two to teach the Congress.

    Mustering one more vote than the two thirds majority needed to override their Governor's veto, they passed a bill that grants same sex couples the freedom to marry, and became the first state in the nation to achieve marriage equality through legislation rather than the court.

    What's it got to do with Congress? Merely this: there is such a thing as the courage of conviction. How many times have we heard that progress comes through conciliation? It's the ubiquitous refrain of political "framing" and "spin-meisters."

    "Go to where the middle is." How many anti-war activists, anti-poverty, pro-single-payer advocates have been told that progress comes from hugging the middle, not pushing the edge? You hear it now in Washington, around healthcare --- or the budget.



    Civil Unions, passed in 2000 in Vermont, didn't satisfy fair-minded Vermonters. They'd pushed from the edge to Civil Unions, still wanted marriage equality, and they weren't going away, and they continued to work and to push. A veto threat from Vermont's governor didn't discourage the backers of same sex marriage. Among the people egging them on was former Democratic National Committee chair and former Vermont governor Howard Dean. "Vote your conscience, not your district," he encouraged legislators at a pre-vote party fundraiser.

    "Stand up for doing the right thing; for being a human being," Dean was quoted as saying in the Burlington Free Press. "Put human rights above politics -- because if you don't, you'll regret it for the rest of your political career."

    He was right. Coming less than a week after a ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court that extended same sex marriage in that state, and with bills to follow suit under consideration in several other states, the arc of history feels as if it's tilting toward equal protection after all.

    And watching LGBT equality advance you've got to chalk up one more victory to a small but determined minority clinging to what they believe is right. If culture warriors always trod softly-softly and adhered to conventional guff, we'd never have marriage equality. Or inter-racial marriage. Or votes for women, or civil rights.


    Laura Flanders

  • April 4, 2009

    The A in NATO is not for Afghanistan


    It's a strange idea, that the future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization lies in the mountains of Afghanistan. But that's just the case that President Barack Obama and  British Defense Secretary John Hutton are making at NATO's 60th anniversary summit this weekend in Strasbourg.

    Hutton, like Obama, is trying convince his counterparts in NATO that they should commit more troops to Afghanistan. In fact, he told the BBC on the eve of the summit that the Afghan war is the defining conflict for NATO in this part of the 21st century.



    It's the same message carried by Obama.



    Will it fly? I guess that depends on how much history makes its way into the celebration. When it was founded 60 years ago, no one would ever have imagined that, more than half a century later, NATO's defining conflict could possibly be in central Asia.

    NATO was created in 1949 to defend western democracies from scary Stalinist Russia.


    Laura Flanders

  • April 2, 2009

    Silence on Afghanistan: If Only it Were a Joke


    It's April Fool's day week and my inbox is full.

    My favorite prank posting so far comes from the London- based Guardian newspaper which announced (via Twitter): "The Guardian scraps print version for all-Twitter format"

    The newly Twittered 140-character-only archive was said to include the following articles: "OMG Hitler invades Poland, allies declare war see [link]," and "JFK assassin8d@Dallas, def. heard second gunshot... WTF?"

    What I wish was a joke was some of the rest of what's been coming in...

    Like all the mail from supposedly anti-war groups who worked hard to elect Barack Obama on an anti-Iraq war platform, but now, when it comes to escalation in Afghanistan, are lining up in support.

    After the president announced the deployment of 4,000 more troops (on top of the extra 17,000 he's already sent) Jon Soltz, an anti-Iraq war organizer with VoteVets wrote in the Huffington Post: "With today's announcement President Obama has shown that he 'gets it.' That's why we at are supporting the plan." They even have a rah-rah petition going.

    Americans United for Change ran hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of anti-Iraq war ads in 2007, but they refused to answer a Washington Post blogger's question about Afghanistan. Anti-war organizers - and plenty of generals -- agreed that there was no military solution possible in Iraq. But many of those who got their head round that idea then, seem to believe the opposite is true in Afghanistan, even though Obama's own advisers say the struggle there can't be won on the battlefield.

    On the website of the liberal Center for America Progress there are no fewer than five articles supporting the president's policy, including one headlined "Seven Reasons Why We need to Engage in Afghanistan."

    On the Afghanistan deployment, as the Center for Media and Democracy's John Stauber has pointed out, MoveOn has thus far been silent on Afghanistan.

    The Post's Greg Sargent says that when MoveOn's members were recently polled on their priorities for 2009, the subject  didn't apparently make the cut.

    I wish I could say APRIL FOOLS. But sadly no. Looking at the history of Afghanistan, I'd have to say, the joke, such as it is, is on us. 


    Laura Flanders is the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on Free Speech TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415) on cable (8 pm ET on Channel 67 in Manhattan) and online daily at and


    Laura Flanders

  • March 24, 2009

    Geithner’s Plan: Like an Oil Spill


    Twenty years ago this week, the Exxon Valdez ran aground, spilling ten millions gallons of filthy oil over 10,000 square miles of Prince William Sound. The Exxon corporation spent the next two decades fighting paying punitive damages to the victims. Announced, by coincidence, on the anniversary of that disaster, the Obama administration bank rescue plan is about as comforting as Exxon's clean up.


    The economy's drowning in bad assets; trillions of dollars worth. The Treasury proposes renaming that bad stuff "legacy assets" and hopes to drive up the price by paying private investors to buy them. Go ahead and buy -- the Treasury says -- the taxpayer will take the hit if those toxic assets turn out to be, well, toxic.

    Like Exxon, which has gone in for a major publicity make-over, pushing renewable energy in advertising even as it funds global warming denial, Geithner's hoping to persuade investors to engage in a whole new round of protected gambling, the very phenomenon that got us into this mess in the first place. Those "complex derivatives" aren't bad, just undervalued, he claims, victims of public panic. Treasury's willing to push a few cheap hits in the hope that a little free dope will get the hedge funders addicted again.

    There's just one catch: those derivatives are bad: bad bets upon bad bets, based on cost-free betting. Traders gambled, reaped the profits in transaction fees and walked away. Kind of like Exxon: profiteering off the good days and reaping the private gain from public resources, and throwing the cost of environmental clean up back onto the taxpaying public.

     The problem is with the commanders, many of those who drove us aground, are still sitting pretty. As Frank Rich and others have reported, Larry Summers can't admit fault: he helped torpedo the regulation of derivatives while he was in the Clinton administration.

    Learn from Alaska. Years after the Exxon Valdez belched guck all over the coast, ruining a fishing industry and bankcrupting a people, the financial industry's flooded our economy with garbage and we're letting the ship's captains control the clean up.

    Ask the Alaskans how well that worked. Not so bad for Exxon; less well for the people and the planet.

    Laura Flanders is the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on Free Speech TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415) on cable (8 pm ET on Channel 67 in Manhattan) and online daily at and


    Laura Flanders

  • March 5, 2009

    What to Do With 1,200 Pounds of Bull


    You can learn a lot from obituaries -- and recently there have been some great ones.

    In February, it was Conchita Cintrón, a celebrated female bullfighter.

    Cintrón, who retired from bullfighting after having killed as many as 750 bulls in the ring, died in Lisbon last month at the age of 86.

    At eighteen, according to the obituaries, she was known as la Diosa Rubia, the Blond Goddess.

    A headline about her in the New York Sun in 1940 read, "She's a Timid Blue Eyed Girl But -- She Kills Bulls Without Qualms."

    "I have never had any qualms about it," she said. "A qualm or a cringe before 1,200 pounds of enraged bull would be sure death."

    Lesson One in these political days: Don't cringe when there are 1200 pounds of bull coming towards you...

    My favorite obituary from this month so far is of Molly Kool, sea captain.

    Kool qualified as a captain at age 23, the first woman in North America to be a licensed ship's captain. She died last week at her home in Bangor, Maine, two days after her 93rd birthday.

    One contemporary news account described Kool this way: "Her eyebrows are shaped and arched, her lips lightly rouged, her blonde hair up in feminine curls. That's Miss Molly Kool ashore ... but in her barge ... she knows no fear ..."

    She was nothing if not pragmatic.

    The New York Times notes one widely reported occasion when Kool's ship, the Jean K collided with another in a dense fog and sent her hurtling overboard, where she risked being sucked under by the ship's propeller. A piece of timber floated by and she grabbed it as the ship's passengers hurled life preservers down at her.

    "I'm already floating," Ms. Kool hollered up at her shipmates from the brink. "Stop throwing useless stuff at me and send a boat!"

    Ahem! Anyone else hear an absolutely perfect message for these economic hard times?

    When you're already floating you don't need more help to float. "Stop throwing useless stuff -- and send a boat!"

    Exactly. And to think, some say that feminist history's over-rated. Happy Women's History Month.


    Laura Flanders is the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on Free Speech TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415) on cable (8 pm ET on Channel 67 in Manhattan) and online daily at and

    Laura Flanders

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  • December 2, 2008

    DC to Delhi: Only Our Missiles — Not Yours

    Condoleezza Rice is off to India this week, to "stand in solidarity with the Indian people " in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

    The Bush administration says it shares the horror and pain of the Indian people. In fact, it shares a good deal more than that.

    It shares experience in ignoring terror warnings, for one thing. In 2007, a report to the Indian Parliament warned that that country's shores were open to attack (and several of the Mumbai attackers seem indeed, to have come by boat. ) As U.S. National Security Advisor, Rice was present on August 6, 2001 when the Presidential Daily Briefing was presented to George W. Bush at his ranch: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US." Condoleezza Rice knows all about ignoring warnings like that.

    Laura Flanders

  • November 18, 2008

    No Moderate Cabinet

    The President-elect is still selecting his cabinet. He's met with Hillary Clinton who's said to be under consideration for Secretary of State and more former Clinton administration officials have been named to top posts.

    Gregory Craig will probably get the headlines. He is to be White House counsel. Craig led Bill Clinton's legal team through the 1998 impeachment proceedings. But also on board the new administration will be Ronald Klain. Klain, who's to be Chief of Staff to the Vice President previously served as Vice President Al Gore's Chief of Staff and as a lobbyist for among others the failed mortgage giant Fannie Mae, the media giant Time Warner, and the Coalition for Asbestos Resolution, a business group that sought government help resolving asbestos lawsuits.

    It's all well and good, we're told. Obama's assembling a cabinet like Lincoln's - moderate and bi-partisan. But bi-partisanship when it comes to things like settling Asbestos suits is the kind of "bi-partisanship" with corporate America that makes people sick -- and not just for political reasons

    Laura Flanders

  • October 8, 2008

    Who Is the Oracle?

    Tuesday night's Presidential debate in Nashville featured a notable clash or two, but on one topic there was agreement: Warren Buffett. The so-called "Oracle of Omaha" is an Obama supporter but also received a nod from John McCain. When asked who would be a suitable Treasury Secretary both men invoked Buffett's name. So who is the Oracle everybody admires?

    Warren Buffett is the 78-year old chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, a holding company based in Omaha, Nebraska. In 2007 Forbes ranked him the richest man in the world, worth $62 billion, now only $50 billion...but you get the idea.

    How does somebody get that rich? By buying the stocks of companies that make good returns for their investors. Some of Buffett's picks over the years include: Coca-Cola and McDonalds as well as Dow Chemical, and of course WalMart. Trouble is, those that make the best returns for their shareholders don't generally treat their workers all that well -- or the environment. All that shareholder profit's got to come from somewhere. Buffett also owns Mid-Atlantic Energy, a utility that burns coal and runs nuclear power plants.

    Laura Flanders

  • October 1, 2008

    The Day Chicken Little Croaked?

    "You have nothing to fear but fear itself." Hearing those words from Franklin Delano Roosevelt quoted again today, they rang true in a whole new way. The fear is out there. Of course it's there -- when the Dow Jones drops a spooky 777 points in a day -- that fear's inevitable -- and the hurt's real enough -- in people's pensions and their pocket books.

    But bail-out supporter or not, there are lots of reasons to celebrate the vote that so many powerful people are wringing their hands about today. There's a lot of arm-twisting going on right now, and a new package may be put up for a vote as soon as Friday, but what happened Monday is a game changer moment and it's worth taking note: calls into Congress came in 9 to 1 against the bailout. Even after every powerful opinion pusher in the land preached the urgency of the bailout. The politics of pure panic failed. Chicken Little croaked.

    People in this country have been told to fear so much for so long -- from terrorism, Islam, abortion, gay marriage, Iraq, deficits, trade, no-trade; layoffs, no layoffs, environmental regulations -- you name it -- that finally, they just didn't buy it.

    Laura Flanders

  • September 23, 2008

    An Economic Coup?

    A threatened elite seeks to consolidate control and tighten its grip on a nation's resources ...

    You could be forgiven for thinking I'm describing Bolivia, where conflict between landowners and backers of the democratically elected president Evo Morales claimed 30 lives so far this month, but I'm not. Reading the economic plan proposed by the Bush Administration for Wal St., I'm struck by the thought that what we're going through right here might not be an election season, but rather a coup.

    The oligarchs in Bolivia used bullets and batons to undermine democracy. Here the weapons look like bailouts and blank checks, but the end goal is the same: Put the economy in a vice and you've tied the hands of whomever's in office. You, the voter, may not vote for the team that promises -- as the GOP service-cutters have promised -- to shrink the Treasury to a puddle that can be drowned in a bathtub. But no matter, your candidate gets the keys to the Treasury and - presto, the Treasury is bare.

    Laura Flanders